4843.0.55.001 - Arthritis and Osteoporosis in Australia: A Snapshot, 2007-08  
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 29/07/2011  First Issue
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Arthritis and osteoporosis are leading causes of pain, disability and illness. Arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions accounted for 4% of the disease burden in Australia in 2007-08. These conditions place a large financial cost on the health care system, accounting for 7.5% ($4.0 billion) of total allocated health expenditure in 2004-05. This was the fourth highest rate of expenditure, behind cardiovascular disease ($5.9 billion), oral health ($5.3 billion) and mental disorders ($4.1 billion) (AIHW 2010). In 2007-08 there were 421,000 hospitalisations due to musculoskeletal conditions (AIHW 2010).

Arthritis is a long-term condition marked by inflammation of the joints which often causes pain, stiffness, and disability. The most common forms of arthritis are:

  • Osteoarthritis: a degenerative condition caused by wear of the cartilage which overlies the ends of the bones in a joint. Its main symptoms are joint pain, swelling and stiffness.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis: an inflammatory autoimmune disease which can affect many organs of the body as well as the joints. It can cause joint pain and swelling, often leading to deformity and disability.

Osteoporosis is a condition where a loss of bone density and decreased strength of the skeleton results in an increased risk of fracture. The prevalence of osteoporosis is thought to be underestimated in Australia because, due to its lack of signs and symptoms, it often goes undiagnosed until a fracture occurs. Fractures as a result of trauma that would not cause normal bone to break, for example falls from standing height or minor bumps, are often the first sign of osteoporosis. The risk of further fractures increases with each fracture. Osteoporotic fractures, especially hip and pelvic fractures, are associated with an increased risk of death in following years. About 24% of people who sustain a hip fracture are estimated to die in the following 12 months (AIHW 2008, 2011).

Arthritis and musculoskeletal disease was identified as either an underlying or associated cause of death for 6,400 (4.6%) deaths registered in 2009. Of all deaths due to arthritis or musculoskeletal disease in 2009, 71% were females (ABS Causes of Death, 2009).