Report: Half of U.S. Adults Have Musculoskeletal Conditions

Disorders cost $213 billion a year

An estimated 127 million Americans––one in two adults––are affected by a musculoskeletal condition, and these disorders cost an estimated $213 billion in annual treatment, care, and lost wages, according to a new report issued by the United States Bone and Joint Initiative (USBJI). The report outlines the prevalence and projected growth of musculoskeletal disorders in the U.S. and recommends strategies for improving patient outcomes while reducing rising health and societal costs.

According to the report, the most prevalent musculoskeletal disorders include arthritis and related conditions; back and neck pain; injuries from falls, work, military service, and sports; and osteoporosis. An estimated 126.6 million Americans had a musculoskeletal disorder in 2012. Specifically:

  • Arthritis was the most common cause of disability, affecting 51.8 million Americans—half of U.S. adults 65 years of age and older.
  • With the aging of the American population, the report projects that the prevalence of arthritis will increase to 67 million people, or 25% of the adult population, by 2030.
  • Two-thirds of Americans with arthritis were younger than 65 years of age.
  • Back and neck pain affected nearly one in three Americans, or 75.7 million adults.
  • Osteoporosis affected 10 million Americans, with 19 million more (mostly women) at risk for the disease.
  • One in two women and one in four men over the age of 50 had experienced an osteoporosis-related fracture, and 20% of hip fracture patients over the age of 50 died within one year of their injury.

In 2011, the annual U.S. cost for treatment and lost wages related to musculoskeletal disorders was $213 billion, or 1.4% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). When adding the burden of other conditions affecting persons with musculoskeletal conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, and obesity, the total indirect and direct costs increased to $874 billion, or 5.7% of the GDP in 2015, the report notes.

Other data on the costs of musculoskeletal diseases and injuries include:

  • Eighteen percent of all health care visits in 2010 were related to musculoskeletal conditions, including 66 million visits for bone and joint injuries, and52 million visits for low back pain.
  • Arthritis and rheumatoid conditions accounted for in an estimated 6.7 million annual hospitalizations.
  • The average annual cost per person for the treatment of a musculoskeletal condition was $7,800.
  • The estimated annual cost for medical care to treat all forms of arthritis and joint pain was $580.9 billion, which represented a 131% increase (in 2011 dollars) over 2000.
  • Among children and adolescents, musculoskeletal conditions were surpassed only by respiratory infections as a cause of missed school days.

“If we continue on our current trajectory, we are choosing to accept more prevalence and incidence of these disorders, spiraling costs, restricted access to needed services, and less success in alleviating pain and suffering––a high cost,” said Edward H. Yelin, PhD, co-chair of the report’s steering committee, and professor of medicine and health policy at the University of California–San Francisco. The time has come to change this scenario to one with more evidence-based interventions and effective treatments, while simultaneously focusing on prevention, he said.

Source: AAOS; March 1, 2016.