Epidemiology of osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis Cartilage. 2022 Feb;30(2):184-195. doi: 10.1016/j.joca.2021.04.020. Epub 2021 Sep 14.


Objective: To summarize the current state of the evidence regarding osteoarthritis (OA) prevalence, incidence and risk factors at the person-level and joint-level.

Design: This was a narrative review that took a comprehensive approach regarding inclusion of potential risk factors. The review complements prior reviews of OA epidemiology, with a focus on new research and emerging topics since 2017, as well as seminal studies.

Results: Studies continue to illustrate the high prevalence of OA worldwide, with a greater burden among older individuals, women, some racial and ethnic groups, and individuals with lower socioeconomic status. Modifiable risk factors for OA with the strongest evidence are obesity and joint injury. Topics of high interest or emerging evidence for a potential association with OA risk or progression include specific vitamins and diets, high blood pressure, genetic factors, metformin use, bone mineral density, abnormal joint shape and malalignment, and lower muscle strength/quality. Studies also continue to highlight the heterogenous nature of OA, with strong interest in understanding and defining OA phenotypes.

Conclusions: OA is an increasingly prevalent condition with worldwide impacts on many health outcomes. The strong evidence for obesity and joint injury as OA risk factors calls for heightened efforts to mitigate these risks at clinical and public health levels. There is also a need for continued research regarding how potential person- and joint-level risk factors may interact to influence the development and progression of OA.

Keywords: Epidemiology; Osteoarthritis; Risk factors.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Osteoarthritis / epidemiology*
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors