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Chartbook on Women and Disability

Section 6: Women, disability and aging

6.4. What is the impact of arthritis on women?

Arthritis is a leading cause of disability among working-age people, as well as a major cause of disability among people 65 years and older in the United States (Centers for Disease Control, 1994a, 1994b).

Arthritis affects women at a higher rate than men, due partly to women's greater longevity and the increasing prevalence of arthritis with age. However, even when estimates are age-adjusted to account for the fact that women live longer, women still experience higher prevalence of arthritis and higher rates of arthritis-related disability. Based on estimates from the 1989-1991 NHIS, the age-adjusted prevalence of arthritis among women 24 years and older is 17.1%, compared to 12.5% for men. The age-adjusted rate of activity limitations for women is 3.4%, compared to 2% for men (CDC, 1994a).

Among older women, arthritis is associated with worse perceived health status, and difficulty in performing physical activities. People with arthritis incur higher medical costs than their peers with no arthritis, particularly due to higher rates of comorbidity (other chronic conditions along with the arthritis). Women's rates of arthritis-related activity limitations are projected to increase as the average age of the population increases (Gabriel, 1996; Gabriel, Crowson & O'Fallon, 1995).

Women have higher rates of arthritis and related activity limitations,
even after accounting for women's greater longevity.

Horizontal bar chart. Go to Data Table for Figure 29 for the data values shown in this chart.

Figure 29: Age-adjusted prevalence and activity limitation due to arthritis, by gender

Data Table for Figure 29

Source: Centers for Disease Control (1994a & 1994b)

Surveys: NHIS, 1989-1991

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