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Badley EM, Kasman NM. The Impact of Arthritis on Canadian Women. Women’s Health Surveillance Report. BMC Women’s Health. 2004 Aug;4(Suppl 1):S18:1-10. [Pub Med ID 15345081]

Health Issue

Arthritis is one of the most prevalent chronic conditions in Canada and a leading cause of long-term disability, pain, and increased health care utilization. It is also a far more prevalent condition among women than men. Information was obtained primarily from the1998-99 National Population Health Survey (NPHS) and the Canadian Joint Replacement Registry (CJRR).

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Key Findings

In 1998, the overall prevalence of self-reported arthritis or rheumatism in Canadian women was 20.0%. This rate increased to 55.6% among women over 75 years of age. Compared to women with chronic conditions, women with arthritis were more likely to experience long-term disability; report worse health; experience more pain; be dependent upon others and consult general practitioners, specialists, and physiotherapists more frequently. While men and women with arthritis under-utilize total joint replacement surgery, the degree of under-use was over three times greater for women.

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Data Gaps and Recommendations

There is a lack of detailed information on the use of health care services by women with arthritis. There are also no systematic data available on the prescribing of medications, access to services such as assistive devices or exercise programs, or use of community support, self-management strategies, or rehabilitation services. The burden of arthritis both on women and on society is expected to increase as the population ages. A comprehensive health strategy to reduce the impact of arthritis is required to ensure that health and support services are available in a timely manner and provided in such a way to meet the needs of Canadian women.

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List of Tables and Figures (in the publication)

  • Table 1. Socio-demographic characteristics of 1998/99 NPHS respondents, stratified by sex and disease status.
  • Table 2. Number and prevalence of self-reported arthritis or rheumatism, by age and sex.
  • Table 3. International prevalence rates of rheumatoid arthritis by sex.
  • Table 4. Percentage of women in income, education, and employment classes, by disease status.
  • Table 5. Health status measures of 1998/99 NPHS respondents, stratified by sex and disease status.
  • Table 6. Percentage of women with health impacts, by disease status.
  • Table 7. Health care utilization by 1998/99 NPHS respondents, stratified by sex and disease status.
  • Table 8. Percentage of women using health care services by disease status.
  • Table 9. Age specific rates (per 100,000 population) of total knee replacement procedures, by sex, Canada, 1999-2000.

Selected Tables and Figures from the Publication (with interpretation)

It is clear from the following figures that women with arthritis are more disabled and have poorer health than women with other chronic conditions or no chronic conditions. Women with arthritis are more likely to be on long-term disability, and are more restricted in their activities than other women.

Figure 1. Socio-Demographic Characteristics of 1998/99 NPHS Respondents, Stratified by Sex and Disease Status.

Figure 5. Health Status Measures of 1998/99 NPHS Respondents, Stratified by Sex and Disease Status.

Figure 6. Percentage of women with health impacts, by disease status. Source: NPHS, Statistics Canada, 1998-1999.

Supplementary Tables and Figures (with interpretation)

As seen in Figures 1-3, arthritis/rheumatism is a common chronic condition in women of all ages.

Figures 1-3. Top ten chronic conditions in women by age. Source: CCHS, Statistics Canada, 2000-2001.

Figure 4. Proportion of women in the overweight/obese category. Source: CCHS, Statistics Canada, 2000-2001.

In Figure 4, it is clear that at all ages, the proportion of women who are overweight or obese with arthritis is greater than other women with or without chronic conditions.

Figure 5. Proportion of women reporting trouble sleeping most of the time. Source: CCHS, Statistics Canada, 2000-2001.

In Figure 5, it is apparent that women with arthritis have more difficulty with sleep than other women with or without other chronic conditions.