Arthritis risk higher in poor neighborhoods

U. MELBOURNE (AUS) — People living in poor neighborhoods are 42 percent more at risk of getting arthritis than those that live in affluent areas, new research shows.

Published in the journal Arthritis Care & Research, a study reveals that more than 30 percent of people living in socially disadvantaged areas reported having arthritis—as opposed to 18.5 percent in wealthier areas.

Of all the findings, location of residence influenced arthritis prevalence the most, says lead author Sharon Brennan of the University of Melbourne and Deakin University.


“People with the condition suffer a lower quality of life. The symptoms of arthritis such as pain and immobility are debilitating,” she says. “Our results indicate that intervention efforts to reduce arthritis may need to focus on both people and places.”

The study is the first to examine the relationship between individual and neighborhood-level disadvantage on arthritis.

“It is widely known that obesity, age and social disadvantage are linked and are also risk factors for arthritis. This is the first time a study has shown specific associations with people’s neighborhoods which may explain that link.”

Using data from the HABITAT (How Areas in Brisbane Influence Health and Activity) cohort led by Gavin Turrell, professor at the Queensland University of Technology, researchers surveyed 10,757 males and females aged 40-65 years, selected from 200 neighborhoods of varying socioeconomic status in Brisbane.

Neighborhoods, areas within suburbs, are based on Australian Bureau of Statistics Census data, which groups 200 private dwellings by proximity.

The study has important implications for policy, health promotion, and other intervention strategies designed to reduce the rates of arthritis, Brennan says. “Our next steps will be to find out why there is a link to arthritis and place. One of the factors may be that if the environment is not conducive to physical activity, then people are less likely to be active.”

In Australia, arthritis and other musculoskeletal disorders accounted for the largest proportion of direct health expenditure (31 percent), amounting to $1.2 billion. Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are the most common forms of arthritis.

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