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For more information, go to www.arthritisresearchuk.org

The true impact of arthritis

Arthritis Today Summer 2017 Issue 173A man and a woman in an office looking at a computer screenYou'll know all too well the impact arthritis has on your own life. Perhaps you also think about how your arthritis affects your loved ones or your employer, but the impact doesn’t stop there. With 10 million people in the UK living with arthritis, each with friends and family, many with work colleagues and employers and all supported by a team of healthcare professionals, the ripple effect of arthritis touches every person in our society, either directly or indirectly.

To support our campaign, we've gathered evidence to reveal the extent of the hidden impact of arthritis on our society, published in a new report, Arthritis: The Nation’s Joint Problem (PDF, 2794.2 MB). We wanted to share some of the headline findings with you:

Impact on the economy

Every year, more than 25 million working days are lost to osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis – making arthritis one of the UK’s biggest causes of sick leave.

Arthritis also means we're losing valuable talent from our workforce. A quarter (25%) of people with the condition leave work or retire earlier than they would otherwise. Just 11% say they're currently accessing help that's helping them to stay in work for longer.

Impact on the health service

The estimated NHS spend on care for people with arthritis stands at more than £10 billion – 8.25% of the 2017 health service budget. Here are just a few examples of the impact of arthritis on the NHS:

  • One in five people consult their GP about arthritis every year.
  • In 2015, more than 200,000 hip or knee replacements were carried out in the UK.
  • Managing chronic pain accounts for an estimated 4.6 million GP appointments each year – equating to full-time employment for 793 GPs.
  • There are 1.9 million first referrals for people with arthritis to receive physiotherapy each year.

But six in ten people with arthritis believe that the condition still isn’t a priority for our health service. Further, one in four (26%) local authorities haven’t included the needs of people with arthritis in their assessment of local health needs.

NHS resources are stretched, or even non-existent, in places where they are needed most. This is because there's currently not enough acknowledgement of the effect of arthritis on the health service and often decisions about health aren’t made with arthritis in mind.

Impact on families

Family and friends are losing out to arthritis. Arthritis complicates relationships, stops people from leading active social lives, reduces income for families and robs people of quality time with their loved ones.

More than three quarters (76%) of people with arthritis say their families and social lives are compromised by their condition and a third (29%) admit they feel lonely.

Five out of ten (53%) people with arthritis believe they’re a nuisance to their family – and with the more severe forms of the condition, this rises to eight out of ten (81%).More than three quarters of people with arthritis say their families and social lives are compromised by their condition.

Finances can cause stress too. Those with working partners often report feeling like they’re a burden, while others are concerned that their condition depletes the household budget.

Despite these stark facts and figures, only 42% of people see arthritis as a major public health issue. Decisions are made, every day, which don't take arthritis into account. Some local authorities aren't making adequate resources available for people with arthritis. Some employers don’t know about how arthritis can affect their workforce, so aren't making simple adjustments to make the working day easier for people with the condition. And because individuals don’t feel able to discuss their arthritis, they don’t ask for the help they need.

Starting a nationwide conversation

Until the issue of arthritis is clearly recognised as a problem by wider society, we can’t get closer to finding solutions. By bringing together the right people and starting a nationwide conversation, we aim to change this, fighting for arthritis to be given the recognition and the resources it deserves.

We'll only be able to solve our joint problem when arthritis is properly understood. There's no magic-bullet solution, and action is needed on many levels, across all areas of society – from policy-makers and healthcare providers, charities, designers of public spaces, the media, to people with arthritis themselves and their family and friends. But we believe this is possible, and our campaign to raise awareness is an important first step on our journey.

Please visit our campaign pages to read the full report and find out more.

Joint Problem infograpihc showing statistics on the prevalence of arthritis in the UK

Read next: Anne’s story – Let’s be honest about the hidden impact of arthritis

Anne Kearl in a country lane

Chronic pain affects every aspect of Anne Kearl's life, but this impact is often hidden and rarely understood by others. This is something Anne believes needs to change.

For more information, go to www.arthritisresearchuk.org.
Arthritis Research UK fund research into the cause, treatment and cure of arthritis. You can support Arthritis Research UK by volunteering, donating or visiting our shops.