Impact of osteoarthritis on wider society

The impact of osteoarthritis (OA)-related pain extends far beyond the affected individual and the people closest to them. There is a substantial socioeconomic impact of OA.1 For society in the UK, the cost of working days lost due to arthritis, including OA, will be £3.4 billion by 2030;2 this high figure is not surprising considering that almost half of the over 8 million people living with OA are of working age (<65 years).3

Indeed, musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions such as OA are a leading cause of lost working days in the UK, after coughs and colds.4 The most direct loss of working days is due to absenteeism (reduced hours or missed work),4 which increases with the severity of a patient’s OA.5 More broadly, the impact also manifests as lower overall employment rates, increased sickness absence, or ‘presenteeism’ (being at work, but with a limited ability to work)4,6. Combined, the annual lost productivity due to arthritis (OA and rheumatoid arthritis) amounts to around £2.6 billion – expected to rise to £3.4 billion by 2030.2 The total cost estimated cost to the UK is around 1% of the Gross National Product.7

Impact on productivity, by OA severity5


OA also has a significant impact on our health service. MSK conditions like OA make up a significant workload within general practice.8 Indeed, MSK conditions such as OA account for a third of all GP appointments in England alone.9 Demand is also high in secondary care, but there is fewer than one pain specialist per 100,000 people.10 Overall, the total annual National Health Service (NHS) spend related to OA and MSK is roughly £5 billion, representing a high healthcare resource utilisation for MSK conditions such as OA.3

Overall, there is a clear need to reduce socioeconomic and healthcare impacts of OA-related pain. If patients receive the right care in the most appropriate setting (and by the right healthcare professionals), they can be supported to keep working. This would improve productivity for millions in the UK workforce, including NHS staff, and reduce the cost of lost working days. Change is already happening: for example, the length of stay for joint replacement has fallen dramatically since the late nineties, resulting in a better service for patients as well as substantial savings to the NHS.11 But there is much more to do – including a more integrated approach to multidisciplinary team (MDT) working for OA pain management, and a more patient-centred approach to OA care. Read the Management section of the website to learn more.

What should I do next?

Help to reduce the burden of OA-related pain on wider society and on the NHS by supporting MDT and patient-centred care approaches.

1. Hiligsmann M, Cooper C, Arden N, Boers M, Branco JC, Brandi ML, Bruyère O, Guillemin F, Hochberg MC, Hunter DJ, Kanis JA, Kvien TK, Laslop A, Pelletier JP, Pinto D, Reiter-Niesert S, Rizzoli R, Rovati LC, Severens JLH, Silverman S, Tsouderos Y, Tugwell P, Reginster JY. Health economics in the field of osteoarthritis: An expert’s consensus paper from the European Society for Clinical and Economic Aspects of Osteoporosis and Osteoarthritis (ESCEO). Seminars in Arthritis and Rheumatism. 2013; 43(3):303-313. 2. Versus Arthritis. The state of musculoskeletal health 2019. 2019. Accessed February 26, 2020. 3. Arthritis Research UK. Osteoarthritis in general practice: data and perspectives. July 2013. Accessed March 18, 2020. 4. Public Health England. Dependence and withdrawal associated with some prescribed medicines: An evidence review. September 2019. Accessed August 4, 2020. 5. Dibonaventura MD, Gupta S, McDonald M, Sadosky A, Pettitt D, Silverman S. Impact of self-rated osteoarthritis severity in an employed population: Cross-sectional analysis of data from the national health and wellness survey. Health Qual Life Outcomes. 2012;10:30. 6. Conaghan P, Abraham L, Graham-Clarke P, Viktrup L, Cappelleri JC, Beck C, Bushmakin A, Williams N, Mellor J, Jackson J. Poster: Current treatment patterns among European patients with osteoarthritis: analysis of a real-world dataset. Presented at: 11th Congress of the European Pain Federation (EFIC), Valencia, Spain, September 4-7, 2019. 7. Chen A, Gupte C, Akhtar K, Smith P, Cobb J. The Global Economic Cost of Osteoarthritis: How the UK Compares. Arthritis. 2012;2012:698709. 8. Heron N, Ryans I. What musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions are referred from routine General Practice (GP) and what impact does this have on developing innovative care models for patients with MSK conditions in primary care? Int J Phys Med Rehabil. 2016;4:6. 9. NHS. The NHS long term plan. January 2019. Accessed February 26, 2020. 10. McGhie J, Grady K. Where now for UK chronic pain management services? BJA. 2016;116(2):159-162. 11. Burn E, Edwards CJ, Murray DW, Silman A, Cooper C, Arden NK, Pinedo-Villanueva R, Prieto-Alhambra D. Trends and determinants of length of stay and hospital reimbursement following knee and hip replacement: evidence from linked primary care and NHS hospital records from 1997 to 2014. BMJ Open. 2018;8(1):e019146.

In the UK, the cost of working days lost due to arthritis (including OA) will be £3.4 billion by 2030.2

Please note that some of the following resources are not created or sponsored by Pfizer. Where this is the case, using the links will direct you to external, third-party sites.
Further reading
Patient pathways, systems and management
Optimising care pathways has the potential to increase patient satisfaction and treatment outcomes, ensure more consistent, appropriate and timely referrals, improve multidisciplinary team (MDT) capabilities, and reduce the burden on our healthcare services. Patients can often feel…
Current guidelines and patient-centred management
The UK guidance by National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommend a holistic approach to osteoarthritis (OA) assessment and management.1 Key to holistic management is a holistic assessment of the patient’s overall situation; NICE encourages assessment…

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PP-INT-GBR-0212 February 2021