More than 7 million people in the UK – some 15 per cent of the population –
now have long-term health problems caused by arthritis or a related condition,
according to latest figures.
The number of people with arthritis is growing, and, after mental health,
the condition is now the second most common cause of time off work for men and
women, said the Arthritis Research Campaign.
Those with osteoarthritis have also risen in number, with 2 million people
now visiting their GP each year for treatment. The UK’s ageing population and
increasing obesity are both risk factors.
Chief executive Fergus Logan said: "It’s time that arthritis is taken
seriously. Arthritis is of epidemic proportions in the UK, yet it is way down
the list of everyone’s health priorities. There isn’t even a national system
for monitoring statistics."
The charity’s report estimated that 206 million working days were lost in
the UK in 1999-2000 because of arthritis, the equivalent to a loss of
production of £18.1bn.
More than £341m was spent on drugs prescribed for arthritis conditions. Hip
and knee replacements cost £405m.
Yet despite the rise in the number of people with the condition, NHS
expenditure on arthritis increased by only 5 per cent between 1990 and 1999.