In higher income countries, social disadvantage is associated with higher prevalence of arthritis; however, less is known about arthritis prevalence or its determinants in low and middle income countries (LMIC). Given the pain and functional disability caused by arthritis, evidence about health gradients in LMIC will help to inform the possible burden on healthcare systems to meet needs of those at greatest risk. We assessed arthritis prevalence across age, sex and parameters of social disadvantage using data from the World Health Organization Study on global AGEing and adult health (SAGE).
SAGE Wave 1 (2007-10) includes nationally-representative samples of adults (≥18yrs) from China, Ghana, India, Mexico, Russian Federation and South Africa (n=44,747). Arthritis prevalence was defined by self-report and by a symptom-based algorithm. Marital status and educational attainment were self-reported. Arthritis prevalence data were extracted for each of the LMIC by 10yr age strata, sex and social disadvantage. Country-specific survey weightings were applied and weighted prevalence calculated for each LMIC.
Arthritis prevalence was higher in women than men, with the peak observed in those aged 60-69yrs or 70-79yrs (self-reported: China 29.2% [95%CI 26.7%-31.9%] vs. 22.9% [20.7%-25.2%]; Ghana 22.8% [18.6%-27.6%] vs. 16.7% [12.6%-21.7%]; India 23.5% [18.8%-29.0%] vs. 17.8% [14.5%-21.7%]; Mexico 22.9% [11.2%-41.1%] vs. 9.7% [6.3%-14.5%]; Russian Federation 45.7% [39.1%-52.3%] vs. 37.8% [30.3%-46.0%]; South Africa 31.5% [25.7%-38.0%] vs. 28.2% [22.1%-35.2%], women vs. men respectively). For both sexes, arthritis prevalence was greater in those with lower education (greatest difference between lowest and highest education=36.7% for Russian women), and in women who were separated, divorced or widowed.
For residents of LMIC the high prevalence of arthritis will likely worsen poverty if this debilitating disease limits their ability to financially and/or materially support themselves. Our findings have implications for national efforts to prioritise healthcare resources and achieve Universal Health Coverage, particularly toward preventing and/or treating arthritis.