A Singular Rise for Arthritis and Obesity


A study spanning 18 years confirms that arthritis is up, people are being diagnosed at a younger age and with a higher BMI.

A Canadian study spanning 18 years confirms that arthritis is more prevalent today, but also that people are increasingly being diagnosed at a younger age and with an increasingly higher BMI.

"In comparing people at the same age, a higher proportion of people in each successive recent generation reported arthritis than their counterparts in earlier generations,” write the authors of a study that appears in the March 8 issue of Arthritis Care and Research.

The study included 8,817 participants at baseline in four study cohorts who had follow-up data, which included 1,598 participants from the World War II cohort, 2,208 from older baby boomers, 2,781 younger baby boomers, and 2,230 Generation Xers.

In every cohort, the benefits of societal changes in increasing income, education and decreases in smoking rates could have potentially reduced the prevalence of arthritis, but these benefits were offset by the effect of a substantial rise in obesity which increased across all cohorts over 18 years.

“Had it not been for the increasing prevalence of obesity over time, the prevalence of arthritis might have declined in all cohorts. Our understanding of the impact of BMI on arthritis prevalence trends is likely to be an underestimate,” the authors wrote.

Participants who were severely obese were 2.5 times more likely to have arthritis than normal weight individuals and they reported arthritis a few years earlier than normal weight individuals, suggesting an earlier at onset. Non-smokers were less likely to report arthritis than current smokers.

The authors suggest that to get a handle on the prevalence of arthritis, physicians should recommend arthritis management programs to young and middle-aged adults.

“Although our results do not represent projections as such, extrapolation of the trajectories of arthritis with age and comparison of the trajectories across cohorts suggest that current projections of the prevalence of arthritis, which only take into account changes in the age structure of the population over time, may be too low for obese individuals,” the authors wrote.



Elizabeth M. Badley, Mayilee Canizares and Anthony V. Perruccio. "A population-based study of changes in arthritis prevalence and arthritis risk factors over time: Generational differences and the role of obesity," Arthritis Care and Research. Accepted manuscript online: March 8, 2017. DOI: 10.1002/acr.23213.

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