Arthritis is a common and costly health condition internationally. The direct medical costs of arthritis are significant, with the condition being the fourth most common reason for seeking general practitioner medical care. Treatment of arthritis in Australia cost around $4 billion (AU) in health system expenditure in 2004–05, the fourth largest cause of health expenditure in the country. However, this figure covers only the direct medical costs, and the indirect costs, are considered to be larger.
Within Australia arthritis has been listed as a ‘National Health Priority Area’, and affects 15% of the population. By 2020 the prevalence of the condition is estimated to increase, with arthritis potentially affecting 35% of the Australian population. Arthritis can cause significant activity limitation, and is responsible for around 13% of the disability reported in Australia.
Due to its impact on functional ability, arthritis is associated with decreased labour force participation rates. Within Australia the impact of arthritis on labour force participation among people in the pre-retirement age group of 45 to 64 years is significant – with people suffering from arthritis being 3 times more likely to be out of the labour force than those with no chronic health condition.
Authors: Deborah J Schofield, Rupendra N Shrestha, Richard Percival, Megan E Passey, Emily J Callander and Simon J Kelly