Epidemiology of osteoarthritis in Australia

Lynette M March and Hanish Bagga
Med J Aust 2004; 180 (5 Suppl): S6.


  • Arthritis affects around 3 million people in Australia, representing about 15% of the population.

  • Osteoarthritis is the leading cause of pain and disability among the elderly.

  • Osteoarthritis is the third leading cause of life-years lost due to disability.

  • Obesity and joint injury are important potentially modifiable risk factors for the development of osteoarthritis.

  • Obesity is also an important predictor of progression of osteoarthritis.

  • Currently, about 19 000 hip and 20 000 knee replacements are performed for osteoarthritis in Australia each year.

  • Prevalence of osteoarthritis and the need for total joint replacement surgery are likely to increase because of a combination of increasing risk factors (age, obesity, injury), increasing expectations for improved quality of life, and improved surgical and anaesthetic techniques making surgery possible for more people.

  • Services to provide these cost-effective procedures need to be increased.

  • Primary and secondary prevention programs aimed at reducing obesity, preventing injury and improving rehabilitation and physical activity are urgently required.

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  • Lynette M March1
  • Hanish Bagga2

  • Florance and Cope Professorial Department of Rheumatology, Royal North Shore Hospital, St Leonards, NSW.


Competing interests:

None identified.

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