The availability of reliable estimates of the burden of musculoskeletal disease is of considerable importance for policymakers.


This study uses data from the 14,507 participants of the European Health Interview Survey conducted in Austria in 2006/2007 to calculate estimates of the prevalence of osteoarthritis, spinal conditions, and osteoporosis in a population representative of other European Union or Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development member states. Urbanicity, socioeconomic status, and age and sex were included as determinants of musculoskeletal disease.


The prevalence of arthritis was 18.8% (95% confidence interval [95% CI] 18.2–19.4%), of spinal conditions was 38.4% (95% CI 37.6–39.2%), and of osteoporosis was 6.6% (95% CI 6.3–7.0%). The census data showed strong evidence for an association between urbanicity and arthritis (P = 0.012) and osteoporosis (P < 0.001), but not spinal conditions (P = 0.721). Arthritis and spinal conditions were associated with socioeconomic status (P < 0.001 for all). Osteoporosis showed the same associations with age, income, and education. For arthritis, a combined model showed a substantial attenuation of the effect of urbanicity on arthritis prevalence after adjustment for socioeconomic status.


These data suggest that the burden of musculoskeletal disease is determined by both urbanicity and socioeconomic status; however, the effect of urbanicity seems to be attributable to differences in socioeconomic status and demographics across geographic regions.