State of the evidence

Curr Opin Rheumatol. 2015 May;27(3):276-83. doi: 10.1097/BOR.0000000000000161.


Purpose of review: This review focuses on recent studies of osteoarthritis epidemiology, including research on prevalence, incidence, and a broad array of potential risk factors at the person level and joint level.

Recent findings: Studies continue to illustrate the high impact of osteoarthritis worldwide, with increasing incidence. Person-level risk factors with strong evidence regarding osteoarthritis incidence and/or progression include age, sex, socioeconomic status, family history, and obesity. Joint-level risk factors with strong evidence for incident osteoarthritis risk include injury and occupational joint loading; the associations of injury and joint alignment with osteoarthritis progression are compelling. Moderate levels of physical activity have not been linked to increased osteoarthritis risk. Some topics of high recent interest or emerging evidence for association with osteoarthritis include metabolic pathways, vitamins, joint shape, bone density, limb length inequality, muscle strength and mass, and early structural damage.

Summary: Osteoarthritis is a complex, multifactorial disease, and there is still much to learn regarding mechanisms underlying incidence and progression. However, there are several known modifiable and preventable risk factors, including obesity and joint injury; efforts to mitigate these risks can help to lessen the impact of osteoarthritis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Disease Progression
  • Global Health
  • Humans
  • Morbidity / trends
  • Osteoarthritis / epidemiology*