Prevalence and sociodemographic correlates of antinuclear antibodies in the United States

Arthritis Rheum. 2012 Jul;64(7):2319-27. doi: 10.1002/art.34380.


Objective: To estimate the prevalence, types, and sociodemographic and biobehavioral correlates of antinuclear antibodies (ANAs) in the US.

Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional analysis of 4,754 individuals from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 1999-2004. ANAs were assessed by indirect immunofluorescence. In ANA-positive individuals, cellular staining patterns were determined, and specific autoantibody reactivities were assessed by immunoprecipitation.

Results: The ANA prevalence in the US population of individuals ages 12 years and older was 13.8% (95% confidence interval [95% CI] 12.2-15.5%). ANA prevalence increased with age (P=0.01), and ANAs were more prevalent among females than males (17.8% versus 9.6%; P<0.001), with the female-to-male ratio peaking at 40-49 years of age. ANA prevalence was modestly higher in African Americans compared with whites (age-adjusted prevalence odds ratio [POR] 1.30, 95% CI 1.00-1.70). Remarkably, ANAs were less common in overweight and obese individuals (age-adjusted POR 0.74) than in persons of normal weight. No significant associations of ANA with education, family income, alcohol use, smoking history, serum levels of cotinine, or C-reactive protein were observed. In ANA-positive individuals, nuclear patterns were seen in 84.6%, cytoplasmic patterns were seen in 21.8%, and nucleolar patterns were seen in 6.1%; the most common specific autoantibodies were anti-Ro (3.9%) and anti-Su (2.4%).

Conclusion: These findings suggest that more than 32 million persons in the US have ANAs, and that the prevalence is higher among females, older individuals, African Americans, and those with a normal body weight. These data will serve as a useful baseline for future investigations of predictors and changes in ANA prevalence over time.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Antibodies, Antinuclear / blood*
  • Antibodies, Antinuclear / immunology
  • Black People
  • Child
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nutrition Surveys
  • Prevalence
  • Sex Factors
  • United States / epidemiology
  • White People


  • Antibodies, Antinuclear