CDC: One-Quarter of Veterans Suffer from Arthritis

November 10, 2014

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one-quarter of veterans surveyed reported having arthritis, which is a higher prevalence compared with nonveterans [MMWR. 2014;63(44);999-1003].       

"Arthritis is among the most common chronic conditions among veterans and is more prevalent among veterans than nonveterans," noted Louise B. Murphy, PhD, division of population health, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, CDC, and colleagues.

The CDC analyzed Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System telephone survey data from 2011, 2012, and 2013. Reported prevalence of arthritis was 25.6% overall; 25% in men and 31.3% in women. Despite the higher prevalence of arthritis among women, the relative differences in prevalence between veterans and nonveterans were higher for men than for women.

Across most sociodemographic categories, prevalence of arthritis was higher among veterans compared with nonveterans. Overall prevalence was 25.6% (95% confidence interval [CI], 25.2-26.1) versus 23.6% (95% CI, 23.4-23.7), respectively.

Prevalence among young adults 18 to 44 years of age was 13% compared with 36% among middle-aged adults (45-64 years of age). Arthritis was common among veterans across all 50 states and Washington, DC, representing about 1 in 6 adults with arthritis.

The study’s authors noted limitations, including the reliance on self-reported arthritis diagnosis, selection bias, and use of cross-sectional data.

"The high prevalence of arthritis, combined with the large number of persons affected, indicate that strategies are needed to reduce the adverse effects of arthritis," the authors noted. "Interventions to improve the quality of life of persons with arthritis include providing access to affordable physical activity and self-management education classes."

The report’s authors suggest that such interventions could improve veterans' quality of life by mitigating pain, depression, and other adverse effects of arthritis, as well as comorbid conditions including heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.

"The high prevalence of arthritis among veterans, coupled with the large absolute number of veterans affected, suggests that dedicated veterans' service organizations in the community and other settings are well-positioned to offer these evidence-based programs to the veteran population," the authors concluded.—Kerri Fitzgerald