Objectives: To obtain prevalence rates of hip and knee pain in elderly people and compare combinations of symptoms with overall health status.
Methods: We performed a cross-sectional postal survey of a random sample of 5500 Oxfordshire residents aged 65 yr and older. Prevalence estimates were based on the screening question: 'During the past 12 months, have you had pain in or around either of your hip/knee joints on most days for one month or longer?' Overall health status was assessed with the SF-36 questionnaire.
Results: The response rate was 66.3% (3341/5039 eligible people), and was highest (approximately reverse similar 72%) for the 65-74 yr age-group. The percentage reporting hip pain was 19.2% [95% confidence interval (CI) 17.9-20.6], and 32.6% (95% CI 31.0-34.3) reported knee pain. The percentage reporting hip and knee pain was 11.3%, and 40.7% reported hip or knee pain. Less than half (48%) of the symptomatic respondents had unilateral problems affecting one hip or knee joint only. SF-36 scores worsened as the number of symptomatic hip and knee joints increased (P<0.001 for physical function, physical role limitation and bodily pain).
Conclusions: Patterns of hip and knee symptoms are complex in older people. Amongst the symptomatic, most have more than one hip/knee affected. This has implications for treatment and health status measurement. In the absence of hip and knee symptoms, general health status scores of elderly people are similar to those of people aged under 65 yr.