New study highlights strain arthritis places on health-care system

September 9, 2013

Canadians with arthritis two to three times more likely to need health services

At a time when hospitals across Canada are trying to cut costs by scaling back or closing arthritis clinics, the burden of the disease on our health-care system is only increasing.

In a given year, a Canadian with arthritis is two to three times more likely to be hospitalized, to require multiple primary care visits, to visit a specialist or to require physiotherapy than someone without any chronic illness. With over 4.6 million Canadians living with arthritis, that increased reliance on health services puts enormous strain on the health-care system.

The new figures come from Arthritis in Canada, a series of reports released today by The Arthritis Society and developed on The Society’s behalf by the Arthritis Community Research & Evaluation Unit (ACREU).

The Arthritis Alliance of Canada, a group of organizations from across Canada that share a commitment to improving the lives of Canadians with arthritis, estimates the current economic impact of arthritis in Canada at over $33 billion in terms of treatment costs and lost productivity. They project that this figure will double over the next 20 years to over $67 billion.

“The costs of arthritis management are very real,” explains Society president and CEO Janet Yale. “We need to adopt a national strategy to address these costs. We need to focus on the prevention of injuries that can lead to osteoarthritis, adopting healthy lifestyles, and more investment in the kind of research that can lead to new, cost-effective treatments.”

Physiotherapy and occupational therapy can reduce the burden of arthritis by helping to mitigate symptoms, slow joint deterioration and improve mobility for people living with arthritis.

In recent months however, supply of these types of services has been reduced. The Scarborough Hospital in Toronto and the University of Alberta Hospital in Edmonton have each announced cutbacks or closures to their arthritis rehabilitation clinics.

“While we acknowledge the huge economic burden of arthritis, we can’t forget the human impact,” says Yale. “We need to ensure that we’re not leaving behind the millions of Canadians who are already living with this devastating disease. That’s why these decisions have been so concerning.”

The Arthritis in Canada study is based on analysis of Statistics Canada’s combined 2010-2011 Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS), a cross-sectional survey that collects self-reported information related to health status, health care utilization and health determinants for the Canadian population. The report, and similar reports broken out by province, can be viewed at www.arthritis.ca/facts.

Other highlights include:

  • The number of Canadians with arthritis is expected to grow to an estimated 7.5 million or 1 in 5 Canadian adults by 2036.
  • Arthritis is the most common chronic condition reported by women and the third most common by men.
  • About a third more Canadians with arthritis report having poor mental health or suffering from mood and anxiety disorders (e.g. depression) than people with other chronic conditions, and three times more than people without any chronic illness.
  • Although arthritis is often perceived as a condition of the elderly, 56 per cent of Canadians with arthritis are under 65 years of age.
  • Over a quarter of men and women with arthritis aged between 20 and 54 years are not in the labour force , and one in three Canadians with arthritis stopped working or retired early due to their arthritis.
  • People with arthritis are more likely to be obese or overweight (64%) and/or physically inactive (58%) versus those without chronic conditions (43% and 43%).

ABOUT THE ARTHRITIS SOCIETY

The Arthritis Society has been setting lives in motion for over 65 years. Dedicated to a vision of living well while creating a future without arthritis, The Society is Canada’s principal health charity providing education, programs and support to the over 4.6 million Canadians living with arthritis. Since its founding in 1948, The Society has been the largest non-government funder of arthritis research in Canada, investing more than $185 million in projects that have led to breakthroughs in the diagnosis, treatment and care of people with arthritis. For more information and to make a donation, visit www.arthritis.ca.

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For further information or to arrange an interview, please contact:

Douglas Emerson
National Manager, Communications – The Arthritis Society
tel: 416-979-7228 x3348
cell: 647-706-0440
email: demerson@arthritis.ca