Background: Despite the high prevalence of the osteoarticular disorders in the elderly, there are few studied about its impact on the population. The aim of the study was to estimate the prevalence and related disability associated to the osteoarthritis and rheumatic disorders in people aged 65 or more.
Subjects and methods: The information was obtained from the Barcelona 1986 Health Interview Survey, a cross-sectional study in a representative sample of the non-institutionalized population aged 65 or more, resident in Barcelona. Information was collected about chronic conditions, perceived morbidity, perceived health status, use of health services and a specific questionnaire of functional capacity was administered.
Results: Fifty-one percent of the interviewed (660 of 1,287) reported having osteoarthritis or rheumatism (31.4% of the males and 63.3% of the females; p < 0.05). The proportion increased with age in males (p < 0.05) but not in females. 82% of the elderly with osteoarthritis or rheumatism reported suffering pain for this condition, being very frequent and moderate/intense in 23% of them. They also rated a worse perceived health, and reported having functional dependency and chronic limitation more frequently than elderly people without this condition. 54% of them were not taking any medical treatment and 40% of the osteoarthritics or rheumatics with very frequent and moderate/intense pain had not been visited by a physician because of their condition in the previous year.
Conclusions: A high prevalence of osteoarthritis or rheumatism and an important impact on health status and health services utilization was observed in the elderly. Likewise, the results suggest that there is insufficient or inadequate coverage of health care needs for this condition.