Anywhere you go in the U.S., there are plenty of people with arthritis, and their ranks are likely to grow as America ages.

So says a study in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The study is based on the 2003 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) survey of adults in every state, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The annual survey included 264,684 randomly chosen civilian adults who were not living in institutions. Participants took the survey by telephone.

The survey covered various health topics. One of the questions was, “Have you ever been told by a doctor or other health professional that you have some form of arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, lupus, or fibromyalgia?”

The percentage of people in each state who answered “yes” to that question ranged from nearly 18 percent in Hawaii to about 37 percent in West Virginia, with a state average of 27 percent, or more than a quarter of all adults.

Activity Limitations

In every area of the U.S. and its territories, women reported arthritis diagnoses more commonly than men; adults aged 65 and older reported arthritis diagnoses more commonly than younger adults.

Participants were also asked if they were limited “in any way in any of their usual activities because of arthritis or joint symptoms.” Of people who reported arthritis diagnoses, 30 percent to nearly 50 percent answered “yes” to that question.

People in southern states were most likely to report limited activity caused by arthritis or joint symptoms, the study shows.

The CDC predicts that arthritis and activity limitations attributed to arthritis will increase as the U.S. population ages.

Physical activity can help prevent or reduce arthritis-attributable activity limits, but other studies have shown that 44 percent of adults with arthritis are inactive, states the CDC.

By Miranda Hitti, reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

SOURCES: CDC, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, May 5, 2006; vol 55: pp 477-481. CDC: “BRFSS: 2003 Survey Data.” News release, CDC.