U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration

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Arthritis, the leading cause of disability among Americans over 15 years of age, comprises more than 100 different diseases that affect areas in or around the joints. Arthritis is the second most common cause of work disability and restricts daily activities such as walking, dressing, and bathing for more than seven million Americans.1 The most common type is osteoarthritis, which is a degenerative joint disease that causes pain and loss of movement due to deterioration in the cartilage covering the ends of bones in the joints. Types of arthritis that primarily affect women include lupus arthritis, fibromyalgia, and rheumatoid arthritis, which is the most serious and disabling type of arthritis.1

In 2007, nearly 21 percent of adults in the United States reported that they had ever been diagnosed with arthritis; this represents more than 46 million adults (data not shown). Arthritis was more common among women than men (24.2 versus 17.3 percent, respectively), and rates of arthritis increased dramatically with age for both sexes. Fewer than 8 percent of women aged 18–44 years had been diagnosed with arthritis, compared to 47.4 percent of women aged 65–74 years, and 57.5 percent of women aged 75 years and older.

In 2007, the rate of arthritis among women varied by race and ethnicity. Arthritis was most common among non-Hispanic White women (27.2 percent), followed by non-Hispanic women of other races (23.2 percent) and non-Hispanic Black women (22.2 percent). Non-Hispanic Asian and Hispanic women were least likely to report having ever been told that they have arthritis (8.9 and 15.4 percent, respectively).

1 Arthritis Foundation. Learn about arthritis. 2008. http://www.arthritis.org, accessed 12/12/08.

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