Nearly 50% of older adults say arthritis or joint pain limits their usual daily activities, yet many have not discussed medication risks with their health care provider, according to new findings from the University of Michigan National Poll on Healthy Aging(NPHA). NPHA surveys are fielded twice a year using a sample of approximately 2000 Americans aged 50-80 years drawn from a nationally representative probability-based panel of US households. For this particular poll, published September 2022, respondents were asked about their experiences with, and management of, arthritis and joint pain. Below, key results regarding prevalence and severity of arthritis; patient attitudes towards arthritis and symptom self-management; use of medications, substances, and nonpharmacologic treatments; and clinician counseling on risks of medication interactions.
60% of adults aged 50-80 years reported ever being diagnosed with arthritis by a health care professional; 30% reported diagnosis of osteoarthritis.
Less commonly reported types of arthritis were rheumatoid arthritis (8%), gout or pseudogout (7%), and another kind of arthritis (5%).
29% of older adults said a health care provider told them they had arthritis, but they were unsure what type.
Among all adults aged 50-80 years: 31% rated their joint pain as mild, 31% as moderate, 8% as severe, and 30% reported experiencing no symptoms of arthritis.
Women were more likely than men to report joint pain (75% vs 65%), as were those aged 65-80 years vs those aged 50-64 years (74% vs 68%).
Older adults with lower levels of education, in lower income households, and in fair or poor physical or mental health were more likely to report joint pain.
Among the 70% of adults with a current diagnosis of arthritis:
55% rated symptoms as moderate or severe.
49% said symptoms limited their usual activities.
45% experienced symptoms daily.
36% said symptoms interfered with their daily lives.
74% of older adults agreed with the statement that arthritis and joint pain are a normal part of ageing.
Adults with joint pain were more likely to regard arthritis and joint pain as a normal part of aging vs those without joint pain (80% vs 60%).
Among those with joint pain, 80% were confident (24% very, 56% somewhat) that they could manage their symptoms on their own.
18% of older adults agreed with the statement that “there is nothing a person with arthritis or joint pain can do to make their symptoms better.”
Those with severe and moderate joint pain were more likely to agree with this statement than those with mild joint pain.
66% of adults with arthritis reported using over-the-counter pain relievers like NSAIDs, eg, aspirin, ibuprofen, or acetaminophen for symptoms during the past year.
Other medications and substances adults used for arthritis included supplements (eg, glucosamine, chondroitin, turmeric), intra-articular steroid injections, other nonopioid prescription pain medications, oral steroids, opioids, cannabidiol, marijuana, and disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs.
Among older adults who used oral steroids for joint pain in the past year, 24% took them at least once a month, 38% ≥1 times per year, and 38% less than once a year.
87% of adults with arthritis used nonpharmacologic treatments to manage symptoms, including exercise (64%), massage (26%), physical therapy (24%), splints or braces (13%), and acupuncture or acupressure (5%).
Among these, massage (91%), splints and braces (85%) and exercise (80%) were most often rated as helpful by those who used them.
80% of older adults used both medications or substances and nonpharmacologic treatments to manage joint pain.
Among adults aged 50-80 years who took ≥2 arthritis medications or other substances in the past year:
40% recalled that their health care provider discussed the risks of medication interactions with them, 53% said their health care provider had not discussed risks, and 7% could not recall.
71% of older adults receiving oral steroids said they had discussed the risks of steroids with their health care provider, 26% had not, and 3% could not recall.