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May 2018

Arthritis Affects More—and Younger—Adults than Previously Thought

You may think of stiff, swollen, achy joints as a problem that only affects older adults. In reality, about one-third of arthritis sufferers are men and women ages 18 to 64. That’s according to new research in the journal Arthritis & Rheumatology, which found that the overall prevalence of arthritis among adults of all ages is significantly higher than previous estimates.

Man holding onto his knee

Arthritis affects 70% more people than previously estimated

In 2015, more than 91 million U.S. adults were believed to have arthritis. This number was based on responses to the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), in which people said they’d received a diagnosis from a doctor.

When researchers looked more closely at the NHIS results and combined the number of people with a doctor’s diagnosis with the number of undiagnosed men and women who said they experienced chronic joint symptoms for more than t3 months, they found that the prevalence of arthritis was nearly 70% higher than the previous estimate.

The higher prevalence is largely because of the fact that many younger adults—who account for about 30% of people with arthritis—experience arthritis symptoms, but may not have a diagnosis from a doctor.

Treatments can protect your joints 

Arthritis can happen at any age. If you experience signs such as pain, aching, or stiffness in or around a joint, make an appointment with your doctor. Treatments such as medicine and physical therapy can help control your pain and prevent damage to your joints.


You can also take steps at home to feel better and manage your symptoms. Learn more about what you can do.

Online Medical Reviewer: McDonough, Brian, MD
Date Last Reviewed: 1/29/2018
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