Bone health

Arthritis and osteoporosis account for much of chronic disease burden

Arthritis, back pain and osteoporosis are among the top contributors to chronic disease burden in Australia, new national figures show.

Arthritis is the third most common chronic condition in Australia, affecting on in seven people (3.6 million or 15% of the population), according to the latest results from the Australian Bureau of Statistics National Health Survey, 2017-18.

The most common chronic conditions were mental and behavioural conditions  (20%, 4.8 million people) and back problems (16.4%, 4 million people), according to the survey based on responses from 21,000 people across Australia.

The prevalence of arthritis was higher in females than in males (17.9% vs 12.1%) and rates increased with age more for females. In the 55-64 year age group, arthritis rates for women were 39.6%, increasing to 57.3% for 65 years and over. For males, arthritis rates were 28% for 55-64 year olds and 39.9% for 65 years and over.

The report also showed that almost a million Australians (3.8% or 924,000 people) had osteoporosis, a level similar to that reported in 2014-15 (3.5%).

As with arthritis, osteoporosis was more common amongst females than males (6.2% vs 1.5%), and more common in older age groups. Osteoporosis rates started to increase 10 years earlier for women compared to males, and females aged 75 years and over were almost three times more likely than males to have osteoporosis (29% vs 10%).

Other key findings from the survey include:

  • Smoking rates have remained relatively constant in recent years (13.8% in 2017-18), with men more likely than women to smoke daily (16.5% vs 11.1%).
  • Two thirds (67%) of Australian adults are overweight or obese (12.5 million people), an increase from 63.4% in 2014-15. Much of the increase has been in young people (18-24 years), of whom 39% were overweight or obese in 2014-15 rising to 46% in 2017-18.
  • Sedentary lifestyle habits predominate, with Australians doing only an average of 42 minutes physical activity per day. Just over a quarter (26%) of older adults (65 years and over) engaged in 30 minutes of exercise on 5 or more days in the last week.

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