A higher prevalence of arthritis and arthritis-attributable activity limitations (AAL) is found in the U.S. versus the Canadian population, especially for women, according to researchers from the Toronto Western Research Institute. The authors attribute the higher prevalence of arthritis and AAL to a greater level of obesity and physical inactivity in Americans, particularly women. Full findings of this study are published in the March 2010 issue of Arthritis Care & Research, a journal of the American College of Rheumatology.

Arthritis is the leading cause of physical disability, and one of the most frequently reported chronic conditions in the U.S. and Canada. Those in mid to late life are particularly vulnerable to this disabling condition, which is expected to increase in both countries due to the aging baby boomer population. According to a 2005 figure from the National Arthritis Data Workgroup more than 21 percent of American adults (46 million) have arthritis or another rheumatic condition and over 60 percent of arthritis patients are women. The 2008 Canadian Community Health Survey reported 15.3 percent (4.3 million) of Canadians have some form of arthritis, with more women then men affected.

This study is the first to provide a direct comparison of U.S. and Canadian data in search of between-country disparities associated with the prevalence of arthritis and AAL. The authors analyzed results from the Joint Canada/United States Survey of Health (JCUSH) conducted in cooperation by Statistics Canada and the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics during 2002-2003. Data were obtained for 3,505 Canadians and 5,183 Americans with an overall response rate of 65.5 percent and 50.2 percent, respectively.

Results show that in the U.S. the prevalence of arthritis was 18.7 percent and AAL was 9.6 percent, while equivalent estimates in Canada were 16.8 percent and 7.7 percent, respectively. Researchers noted that arthritis prevalence was higher in American women at 23.3 percent compared with 19.6 percent of Canadian women. Women in the U.S. also had a higher prevalence of AAL than Canadian women at 13.0 percent versus 9.2 percent, a difference that seems in large part to be linked to lifestyle differences. The overall occurrence of arthritis and AAL in men was similar in both countries at roughly 14 percent and 6 percent, respectively.

“Our study results uggest that the higher prevalence of arthritis and AAL in the U.S. may be a consequence of greater obesity and physical inactivity in that country, particularly in women,” noted Dr. Badley. “Public health initiatives that promote healthy weight and physical activity may benefit from including arthritis concerns to its message, and could potentially reduce the incidence of arthritis and AAL,” concluded Dr. Badley (Courtesy of EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS).

Reference: “Arthritis and Arthritis-Attributable Activity Limitations in the United States and Canada: A Cross-Border Comparison.” Elizabeth Badley and Hina Ansari. Arthritis Care and Research, March 2010; published online February 25, 2010 (DOI: 10.1002/acr.20100).