Estimates of the prevalence of arthritis and selected musculoskeletal disorders in the United States

Arthritis Rheum. 1998 May;41(5):778-99. doi: 10.1002/1529-0131(199805)41:5<778::AID-ART4>3.0.CO;2-V.


Objective: To provide a single source for the best available estimates of the national prevalence of arthritis in general and of selected musculoskeletal disorders (osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, the spondylarthropathies, systemic lupus erythematosus, scleroderma, polymyalgia rheumatica/giant cell arteritis, gout, fibromyalgia, and low back pain).

Methods: The National Arthritis Data Workgroup reviewed data from available surveys, such as the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey series. For overall national estimates, we used surveys based on representative samples. Because data based on national population samples are unavailable for most specific musculoskeletal conditions, we derived data from various smaller survey samples from defined populations. Prevalence estimates from these surveys were linked to 1990 US Bureau of the Census population data to calculate national estimates. We also estimated the expected frequency of arthritis in the year 2020.

Results: Current national estimates are provided, with important caveats regarding their interpretation, for self-reported arthritis and selected conditions. An estimated 15% (40 million) of Americans had some form of arthritis in 1995. By the year 2020, an estimated 18.2% (59.4 million) will be affected.

Conclusion: Given the limitations of the data on which they are based, this report provides the best available prevalence estimates for arthritis and other rheumatic conditions overall, and for selected musculoskeletal disorders, in the US population.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Connective Tissue Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Giant Cell Arteritis / epidemiology*
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Joint Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Low Back Pain / epidemiology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • United States / epidemiology