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

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Arthritis, the most common cause of disability among American adults, comprises more than 100 different diseases that affect areas in or around the joints.1 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.2 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.2

In 2008, nearly 23 percent of adults in the United States reported that they had ever been diagnosed with arthritis; this represents more than 51 million adults (data not shown). Arthritis was more common among women than men (26.7 versus 18.5 percent, respectively). The proportion of adults with arthritis increases dramatically with age for both sexes. Fewer than 9 percent of women aged 18–44 years had ever been diagnosed with arthritis, compared to 55.1 percent of women aged 65–74 years, and 59.8 percent of women aged 75 years and older (data not shown).

The proportion of women with arthritis varies by race and ethnicity. In 2008, arthritis was most common among non-Hispanic White women (30.2 percent), followed by non-Hispanic Black women (23.6 percent). Non-Hispanic Asian and Hispanic women were least likely to report having ever been told that they have arthritis (14.1 and 15.9 percent, respectively). Other observed differences were not statistically significant.

Among women with arthritis in 2008 who reported a specific condition, 11.6 percent reported that a health professional had told them they have rheumatoid arthritis, while 8.1 percent reported that they have fibromyalgia. Two percent of women with arthritis reported that they had lupus arthritis, 2.9 percent had gout, and 5.7 percent reported some other joint condition.

1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Prevalence and Most Common Causes of Disability Among Adults – United States, 2005.  MMWR, May 1, 2009; 58(16): 421-426. www.cdc.gov/MMWR, accessed 02/22/10.

2 Arthritis Foundation. Learn about arthritis. [online] 2009. http://www.arthritis.org/learn-about-arthritis.php, accessed 12/07/09.

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