Arthritis, the leading cause of disability among Americans over 15 years of age, encompasses more than 100 different diseases that affect areas in or around the joints.1 The most common type is osteoarthritis, which is a degenerative joint disease that causes pain and loss of movement as the cartilage covering the ends of joint bones deteriorates. Other arthritis types are rheumatoid arthritis, lupus arthritis, gout, and fibromyalgia.

In 2003, over 20 percent of U.S. adults reported that they had ever been diagnosed with arthritis. Arthritis was more common in women than men, and rates of arthritis increased with age for both sexes. Less than 10 percent of women 18 to 44 years of age had been diagnosed with arthritis, compared to over 55 percent of women 75 years and older.

Rates of arthritis among women varied by race and ethnicity. It was most common among non-Hispanic White women, followed by non-Hispanic Black women; Asian women had the lowest rates of arthritis. The high rate among non-Hispanic White women may be due to the older age distribution of this population.

Graph: Adults with Arthritis by Age and Sex[d]

Graph: Women with Arthritis by Race/Ethnicity[d]

1Arthritis Foundation. The facts about arthritis. 2004.