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Musculoskeletal Disorders Create Significant Global Burden

Musculoskeletal Disorders Create Significant Global Burden

Tue, 04/06/2021 - 00:07

Worldwide, musculoskeletal disorders such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and low back pain affect an estimated 1.3 billion people and cause 121,300 deaths annually, according to a study published in the journal Arthritis & Rheumatology.

“There is a large burden of musculoskeletal disorders globally, with some notable inter‐country variation,” researchers wrote.

The study estimated global prevalence levels, deaths, and disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) from musculoskeletal disorders, categorized as low back pain, neck pain, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, and other musculoskeletal disorders. The analysis, which spanned the years 1990 to 2017, included 195 countries and territories.

Among the 1.3 billion prevalent cases in 2017, 36.8% were low back pain, 19.3% were osteoarthritis, 18.4% were neck pain, 2.6% were gout, 1.3% were rheumatoid arthritis, and 21.5% were categorized as other musculoskeletal disorders. Proportions were similar in 1990, according to the study. Overall, prevalence was greater in women and increased with age. Developed countries tended to have higher fatal and nonfatal burdens due to musculoskeletal conditions.

In 2017, Switzerland, Chile, and Denmark had the highest age-standardized prevalence rates in the world. Increases from 1990 rates were highest in Chili, Benin, and El Salvador, researchers reported.

“Increasing population awareness regarding risk factors, consequences, and evidence‐informed treatment strategies for musculoskeletal disorders with a focus on the older female population in developed countries is needed,” researchers wrote, “particularly for low back and neck pain and osteoarthritis, which contribute a large burden among this cohort.”

—Jolynn Tumolo


Safiri S, Kolahi AA, Cross M, et al. Prevalence, deaths, and disability-adjusted life years due to musculoskeletal disorders for 195 countries and territories 1990-2017. Arthritis Rheum. 2021;73(4):702-714.

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