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Arthritis Slows Down Gainful Employment


ATLANTA -- On the eve of World Arthritis Day 2007, the CDC has released a snapshot, taken in 2003, of the burden of arthritis in the working world.

ATLANTA, Oct. 11 -- On the eve of World Arthritis Day 2007, the CDC has released a snapshot, taken in 2003, of the burden of arthritis in the working world.

On-the-job work limitations attributable to arthritis-affect an estimated 15% of all working-age adults in Kentucky, the state with the highest prevalence, reported Kristina A. Theis, M.P.H., of the CDC's Division of Adult and Community Health, and colleagues, in the Oct. 11 issue of Morbidity & Mortality Weekly Report.

Hawaii had the lowest prevalence of work limitations attributable to arthritis (3.4%). The median prevalence among the states was 6.7%.

"There's no question that people with arthritis face a number of challenges," said Theis, of the CDC's Division of Adult and Community Health. "Fortunately, simple workplace accommodations like flexible work schedules, ergonomic work stations and efforts to promote exercise and physical activity can help many workers who have arthritis."

She and her colleagues conducted the first state-by-state survey looking at how arthritis affects adults' employment, using self-reported data from the 2003 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) survey.

Members of randomly telephoned households in all 50 states, Guam, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands were asked whether they had ever been told by a doctor or other health professional that they had some form of arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, lupus, or fibromyalgia, and whether arthritis or joint symptoms affected whether they work, the type of work they do, or the amount of work they do.

The investigators estimated state-specific prevalence of arthritis- attributable work limitations using the population of working-age adults in the state as the denominator, and they broke the estimates down by the overall working population, the population reporting doctor-diagnosed rheumatoid conditions, and those reporting both arthritis and work limitations.

Arthritis-attributable work limitation prevelance was higher in all states and territories among adults ages 45 to 64 compared with those ages 18 to 44, with a median of 11.7% (range 5.5% to 23.5%) for middle-age workers, compared with 3.9% (range 2.1% to 9.6%) for younger workers.

"Among all 50 states and the District of Columbia, the median percentage employed was 73.2% (range: 60.6% [West Virginia] to 82.0% [South Dakota]) for the overall working-age population," the authors wrote, "but was consistently lower for those with doctor-diagnosed arthritis (median among states: 64.3%; range: 47.6% [Kentucky] to 77.1% [South Dakota]) and lower still among those with arthritis-attributable work limitations (median among states: 48.7%; range: 32.9% [Kentucky] to 67.7% [South Dakota])."

An accompanying editorial note pointed to a recent study estimating that lost wages due to arthritis and other rheumatic conditions were substantial, ranging from million in the District of Columbia, to .24 billion in California.

"These findings show that large numbers of workers in every state are affected by arthritis," said Janet Collins, Ph.D., director of the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. "With the increasing number of older Americans in the nation's workforce, it is important that employers, health departments and others take steps that help people with arthritis stay employed or become employed."

The study is available for viewing and download at www.cdc.gov.

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