Our new policy report explores the link between arthritis and many long-term conditions. With the number of people living with two or more long-term conditions (multimorbidity) growing, it’s important that we understand how people's needs can be met.
Arthritis is often found among people who live with other long-term conditions. For instance, by 65 years of age, almost five out of ten people with a heart, lung or mental health problem also have arthritis.
Over the last two years, Arthritis Research UK has examined issues around living well with arthritis and multimorbidity in depth. We held a round table, spoke to people with arthritis and other long-term conditions, healthcare professionals, and researchers, conducted a literature review and analysed surveys. All of this helped us to understand more about the nature and impact of living well with arthritis when combined with other long-term conditions.
We reached three key observations:
- Arthritis is very common and is often present where there are other long-term conditions.
- Arthritis ruins quality of life. The presence of any long-term condition is associated with a drop in quality of life, but when arthritis or back pain is present as one or more of the long-term conditions, the drop is greater.
- The pain and functional limitation of arthritis makes it harder to cope when living with multiple long-term conditions. Simple everyday tasks such as grasping small objects, standing or sitting can be more difficult with arthritis.
Jack, who is living with asthma, osteoarthritis, depression, carpal tunnel syndrome, a colostomy bag as the result of surgery for colon cancer, an underactive thyroid, diabetes, cataracts, an enlarged prostate and problems with his gall bladder, feels that "it's the arthritis, the carpal tunnel and the bladder control…they're the things that really affect my quality of life."
The report sets out recommendations for change at a national and local level.
We'd like to see musculoskeletal conditions included as part of system-wide approach to addressing the needs of people with multiple long-term conditions.
Changes we'd like to see include:
- Improved metrics and outcome tools.
- Better data collection and appropriate health promotion.
- Collaboration within the charity sector to jointly develop resources, programmes, research, and partnerships.
- Research funders should work with partners to ensure there is a flourishing research agenda for multimorbidity including musculoskeletal conditions.
- Improved assessment and segmentation of people with musculoskeletal and multimorbidity conditions in local planning documents.
- Ensure pain and functional limits are a part of care and support planning, with appropriate tools.
Response to the report
Dr Liam O’Toole, Chief Executive Officer at Arthritis Research UK, comments: "It’s clear that good musculoskeletal health underpins people’s ability to live well and independently with multiple long-term conditions.
"During our research, people told us that having good musculoskeletal health helps them manage; they can open pill packets, change dressings, travel to doctors’ appointments and stay as active as possible. But the reverse is true if someone with long-term conditions also has arthritis.
"As systems change, it’s vital that the needs of people with arthritis are considered. We must ensure that arthritis – whether it's present by itself or among other long-term conditions – does not limit people’s lives."
Tom Wright CBE, Group Chief Executive, Age UK and Chair of the Richmond Group, said: "People with long-term conditions are the main users of health and social care, accounting for about 70% of hospital bed days and 50% of GP appointments.
"Increasingly as we live longer we're more likely to develop more than one health condition and it's very welcome that Arthritis Research UK is carefully considering how care for people needs to take account of these other health conditions alongside musculoskeletal conditions."
The Richmond Group, as a leading coalition of health and care charities, are collaborating to better understand and respond to the reality that many of our beneficiaries struggle with the impact of more than one condition on their lives.
For more information please see our report Musculoskeletal conditions and multimorbidity (PDF, 8.2MB) or contact the policy team at firstname.lastname@example.org