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Independent News For The Australian Public Service
Edition Number 410. Updated Tuesday, 20 May 2014

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6 million suffer from arthritis

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) has released a new report on the prevalence, treatment and experiences of people affected by arthritis, back pain, osteoporosis and other musculoskeletal conditions.

The report, Arthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions across the life stages, looks at these conditions across various stages of life.

AIHW spokesperson, Louise York said arthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions were common, affecting an estimated 6.1 million Australians or 28 per cent of the total population in 2011-12.

"Our report looks more closely at the age profile of these conditions and their impact,'' she said.

As expected, the report found the prevalence of arthritis and osteoporosis was much more common at older ages. For example, less than 1 per cent of children aged 0-15 had arthritis compared to 19 per cent of people aged 35-64 and 51 per cent of people aged 80 or over. Osteoporosis was diagnosed in 3 per cent of people aged 35-64, 12 per cent of people aged 65-79 and 21 per cent of people aged 80 or over.

Joint replacements on rise

However, other musculoskeletal conditions (including disc disorders, back pain and a range of other conditions) affected people more consistently across life stages, increasing from 2 per cent in children to 12 per cent in young people, before settling to 14-19 per cent in those aged 35 or over.

People of all ages with arthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions were more likely to report limitations in performing core daily activities (particularly self-care and mobility) than the overall population, but the degree to which this is experienced varies among age groups.

''People aged 15-34 with these conditions are six times as likely to report limitations in daily activities compared with the general population of the same age (30 per cent compared with 5 per cent) and people aged 35-64 are three times as likely to report these limitations (42 per cent compared with 14 per cent),'' Ms York said.

''People of working age are more likely to have employment restrictions as a result of these conditions.''

People of all ages with these conditions were also more likely to report high or very high psychological distress and to experience mental disorders than the general population.

In 2011-12, there were over 494,000 hospitalisations for people with a principal diagnosis of musculoskeletal conditions, accounting for 5 per cent of all hospitalisations. Hospitalisation rates increased with age, ranging from 309 per 100,000 children aged 0-15 to 5,539 per 100,000 people aged 80 or over.

Joint replacements may eventually be used as part of the treatment of osteoarthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions. There was a 37 per cent rise in these procedures between 2002-03 and 2011-12, with a particularly large increase in the rate of knee replacements in the 35-64 age group (75 per cent), compared with a 45 per cent rise in people aged 65-79 and a 33 per cent rise in people aged 80 and over.

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