Who is affected by osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis occurs throughout the world and in all population groups. Osteoarthritis is equally common in men and women, but women tend to develop symptoms earlier. People may either have symptoms of osteoarthritis or have evidence of osteoarthritis on an X-ray.

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, and a major reason people become disabled and dependent on others as they get older.1

  • In the general population, many people have osteoarthritis that is evident on X-rays, although not all of these people have symptoms. As seen on X-rays:
    • 30% have osteoarthritis in the hands.
    • 21% have osteoarthritis in the feet.
    • 3% have osteoarthritis in the knees and hips.
  • Of people older than 60, 17% of men and 30% of women have symptoms of osteoarthritis.
  • Of people older than 65:
    • Almost all people have osteoarthritis in the hands.
    • 33% have osteoarthritis in the knee.

Although age itself is not a cause of osteoarthritis, the chances of getting it increase significantly as people get older. Up to 33% of people in the United States older than 18 report symptoms of arthritis or chronic joint pain.2


  1. Wise C (2007). Osteoarthritis. In DC Dale, DD Federman, eds., ACP Medicine, section 15, chap. 10. New York: WebMD.
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2002). Prevalence of self-reported arthritis or chronic joint symptoms among adults—United States, 2001. MMWR, 51(42): 948–950.

Last Updated: April 17, 2009

Author: Shannon Erstad, MBA/MPH

Medical Review: Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine & Richa Dhawan, MD - Rheumatology

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