Limited resources and the need to improve the cost-effectiveness of medical procedures underlie the increasing importance of socioeconomic evaluations of health care. A search of MEDLINE was conducted to identify publications on the socioeconomic aspects of the two most important joint diseases: rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and osteoarthritis (OA). Analysis of the retrieved publications focused on three areas: (1) description of the socioeconomic effects of these diseases; (2) methodological approaches of the economic analyses; and (3) discussion from the perspective of patients, clinicians, or public health policy-makers. Of 52 publications dealing with cost data for RA and OA, 44 presented original and recently collected and developed data. Twenty-six were classified as cost analyses, three as cost-benefit analyses, and 11 as cost-effectiveness analyses (four did not fit into any of these classifications). Eight established methodological criteria were used to test for "full economic evaluation"; none of the reviewed studies fulfilled all eight, and only one study fulfilled seven. The gap between the importance of the socioeconomic effects of RA and OA and the research conducted in this field is considerable. A quality standard could be developed to serve as a guideline for further research.