Objective: To document the extent of disability related to arthritis among working-age (18-64-year-old) and elderly (greater than or equal to 70-year-old) individuals.
Methods: Data from the 1970-1987 National Health Interview Surveys were used to determine the prevalence of arthritis-related disability among working-age adults. The Longitudinal Study on Aging was used to determine the prevalence of arthritis-related disability among the elderly.
Results: Among working-age persons, 3.734 million men and 5.649 million women reported having arthritis, of whom in excess of 2 million and 3 million, respectively, reported activity limitation (the definition of disability in the National Health Interview Survey). Labor force participation among men with arthritis was approximately 20% lower than among those without arthritis and approximately 25% lower among women with arthritis than among those without. Among elderly individuals, 55% reported having arthritis and, of these, more than three-quarters were limited in a physical activity and more than one-third were limited in an activity of daily living. Moreover, disability rates for persons with arthritis were found to be increasing, even on an age-adjusted basis.
Conclusion: The impact of arthritis in terms of disability was shown to be high and was probably underestimated, given the high prevalence of the disease among women and elderly persons, and the limitations in the methods used in contemporary social surveys to establish the extent of disability, in these 2 population groups in particular.