To examine predictors and health outcomes for individuals reporting arthritis, chronic joint symptoms (CJS), or sporadic joint symptoms (SJS) compared to those without arthritis or joint symptoms.


Data from the 2008 Canadian Community Health Survey (n = 63,134, ages ≥15 years) were used for the analyses. Respondents not reporting arthritis as a long-term chronic health condition diagnosed by a health professional were asked about joint symptoms, excluding the back and neck, over the past 12 months and whether these symptoms were present on most days in the past month (CJS) or not (SJS). Log Poisson regression was used to estimate prevalence ratios (PRs) for reporting arthritis, CJS, and SJS, and for reporting health outcomes (physical activity, pain that limits activity, activity limitation, poor/fair self-rated health, and poor/fair self-rated mental health) and health service use (visits to primary care physicians, specialists, physiotherapists, and chiropractors, and overnight hospital stays).


Arthritis was reported by 16.0% of the population, CJS by 10.1%, and SJS by 11.6%. Individuals with arthritis were older than those with CJS or SJS. Women reported arthritis and CJS more often. After adjusting for age, sex, socioeconomic status, lifestyle factors, and comorbidities, PRs of all outcomes were higher for the arthritis and CJS groups than the SJS group, with no significant differences in PRs for the arthritis and CJS groups, except for pain that limits activity.


CJS were reported by 10% of the adult population. Similarities in outcomes to arthritis suggest that CJS have a substantial impact in the population, and that arthritis management advice is likely needed for this group.