Role of age, sex, and obesity in the higher prevalence of arthritis among lower socioeconomic groups: A population-based survey




To compare the prevalence of arthritis among population groups based on demographic, socioeconomic, and body mass index (BMI) characteristics; to investigate the combined influence of these factors on arthritis; and to assess the relationship between self-reported health and psychological distress and arthritis.


Data from the Victorian Population Health Survey (n = 7,500) were used in the study. Psychological distress was assessed using the Kessler Psychological Distress scale, and self-reported health was assessed by a single item. Multiple logistic regression was used to investigate the combined influence of demographic and socioeconomic factors and BMI on arthritis.


Overall, 23% of Victorian adults (20% men and 26% women) reported having arthritis. The presence of arthritis was associated with high psychological distress (odds ratio [OR] 1.2; 95% confidence interval [95% CI] 1.1–1.4) and poor self-reported health (OR 1.9; 95% CI 1.7–2.1). Increased prevalence of arthritis was found in older age groups, lower education and income groups, and in people who were overweight or obese. Women had higher risk of arthritis, even after adjustment for age, residence, education, occupation, income, and BMI. Age and BMI independently predicted arthritis for men and women. For men, higher risk of arthritis was also associated with lower income.


Arthritis is a highly prevalent condition associated with poor health and high psychological distress. Prevalence of arthritis is disproportionately high among women and individuals from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. As the prevalence of arthritis is predicted to increase, careful consideration of causal factors, and setting priorities for resource allocation for the treatment and prevention of arthritis are required.