Objective: To evaluate the prevalence of arthritis and activity limitations among older Americans by assessing their demographic, ethnic, and economic characteristics.
Methods: Data from the Asset and Health Dynamic Survey Among the Oldest Old (AHEAD), a national probability sample of community-dwelling adults born before 1924, were analyzed cross-sectionally. Arthritis that resulted in a physician's visit or a joint replacement not associated with a hip fracture was ascertained by self-report.
Results: The prevalence of arthritis in older adults ranged from 25% in non-Hispanic whites to 40% in non-Hispanic blacks to 44% in Hispanics. A higher prevalence of arthritis was associated with less education as well as lower income and less wealth. The prevalence of limitations in activities of daily living (ADL) among non-Hispanic white, non-Hispanic black, and Hispanic adults who reported arthritis only was 29%, 30%, and 37%, respectively, and increased to 48%, 57%, and 56%, respectively, among those reporting arthritis plus other chronic conditions, after adjustment for age and sex.
Conclusion: Non-Hispanic black and Hispanic older adults reported having arthritis at a substantially higher frequency than did non-Hispanic whites. In addition, Hispanics reported higher rates of ADL limitations than did non-Hispanic whites with comparable disease burden. Further study is needed to confirm and elucidate the reasons for these racial and economic disparities in older populations.