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Arthritis Found to Be Widespread

October 25, 2002|From Associated Press

ATLANTA — Arthritis and other chronic joint problems are far more widespread than estimated five years ago, affecting one-third of U.S. adults, about 69.9 million people, the government said Thursday in the first comprehensive survey of the disease.

Health officials said the numbers -- and related health-care costs -- are expected to continue to rise as the baby boom generation reaches old age.

The survey shocked even advocates for arthritis sufferers.

"We just think that's alarming in terms of the number," said Tino Mantella, president of the Arthritis Foundation.

The numbers were 63% higher than a 1997 estimate that said about 20% of U.S. adults, or nearly 43 million people, had arthritis and other chronic joint problems.

The survey by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention here reflects, in part, a real increase in arthritis, connected to baby boomers aging. But it also reflects a more thorough survey, the CDC said.

Previous estimates were much lower because many people do not tell doctors about their joint pain, and others do not consider their aches and pains to be arthritis, officials said. The latest survey asked more penetrating questions.

A total of 212,000 people from all 50 states were interviewed by telephone.

"There are many people with chronic joint symptoms who don't see a doctor," said Dr. Chad Helmick of the CDC's arthritis program. The latest survey "is a better way of capturing people who have always been out there with arthritis or different symptoms."

The arthritis level ranged from 17.8% of adults in Hawaii to 42.6% of adults in West Virginia. States in the central and northwestern parts of the country had the highest rates.

Last year, arthritis patients cost the country about $80 billion in medical care costs and lost time from work, officials said.

People can reduce their risk of arthritis through exercise, weight management and a healthy diet.

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