Osteoarthritis sufferers are twice as likely to need time off sick

The impact of osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis affecting men and women in the UK, should not be underestimated as a new study published in Rheumatology finds.

Researchers at the University of Calgary and Statistics Canada found that osteoarthritis sufferers are almost twice as likely to need time off work and are three times as liable to become unemployed.

Culling their data from the National Population Health Survey, the researchers selected 659 osteoarthritis sufferers and compared them with over 2,000 adults of the same age and sex who didn’t display osteoarthritis symptoms. They then focused on work time loss recorded between 2000 and 2010. The research team discovered that work time loss was 90 per cent higher and that unemployment as a result of illness and disability tripled in osteoarthritis sufferers.

Why does osteoarthritis pose such a growing problem to the UK population?

Osteoarthritis is typically a progressive disease which gradually becomes worse over time, particularly if the sufferer does not seek treatment. Every joint in the body is cushioned with cartilage, a firm, flexible lining that protects the joints, allowing free range of movement. As the cartilage wears down, it thins and can disappear altogether, causing the joints to become stiff and painful.

Each year, a fifth of the population seeks medical help for a musculoskeletal condition and it is estimated that those figures will continue to rise as we face a growing obesity epidemic and the associated lack of physical activity, both key factors in the development of osteoarthritis.

Osteoarthritis is not just a condition that affects the elderly. According to Arthritis Research UK, almost a third of people aged over 45 have sought treatment for osteoarthritis, including over half a million women of working age seeking treatment for osteoarthritis of the hand or wrist. This rapidly increasing problem will only become more of an issue for the UK government and individuals.

If osteoarthritis is limiting your ability to perform your job effectively or even perform normal everyday tasks, then call 01223 200 595 to book a consultation at Professor Cathy Speed’s Cambridge arthritis clinic.