Osteoarthritis by the Numbers

The leading cause of disability in the United States

The leading cause of disability in the United States

Did you know that osteoarthritis (OA) is the number one cause of disability in the United States? 

One study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine estimates that $10 billion in productivity is lost each year due to work absences because of OA. 

Researchers at Stony Brook University reported that OA raised the chances of missing work by about 90 percent in women and 65 percent in men — higher rates of missed days than from asthma, anxiety or diabetes.

All told, researchers estimate that about 27 million US adults have OA as defined through symptoms, physical exams and tests, including X-rays.

What is OA?

Infographic showing statistics about osteoarthitis of the knee.

What is OA?

OA is the most common form of arthritis. It involves degeneration of cartilage in joints caused by excess weight, overuse, injury or aging. 

OA can affect almost any body joint, but mostly affects knees, hips, lower back, neck, fingers, and the bases of the thumb and big toe, according to the Arthritis Foundation, which tracks all types of the disease.

The fact that OA affects the knees should come as no surprise. Knees are the largest joints in the body. At peak performance, knees are amazingly efficient hinge joints called upon to do many things for us and our bodies — stand, walk, jog, run, pivot, kneel and much more. 

Cartilage in the knee is vital. The slippery soft tissue absorbs shock and provides cushioning so bones can move smoothly against each other. 

An estimated 2 out of every 3 people diagnosed with the broadly defined arthritis is under 65 years old.

But because OA is a progressive condition, this type of arthritis can worsen over time and tends to affect older patients more than younger patients. For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in 2014 that only 14 percent of adults 25 and older have OA in at least one joint, whereas 34 percent of adults 65 and older have it.

Weight and OA management

Just like a door hinge that can break when stressed beyond its limits, your knees can be damaged by sheer forces and weight load over time. Weight management can be an important factor in managing early knee or hip OA or preventing it, especially in women. 

Reducing excess body weight and maintaining a regular exercise program are often recommended to patients with OA. Certain exercise therapies have been found to relieve pain and increase mobility.