Arthritis New Zealand challenges the Ministry of Health’s statement in this week’s health survey that arthritis is declining.
The survey confirms there are about 530,000 people in New Zealand who are living with arthritis. That is about three times the number of people in New Zealand who are living with diabetes, and a similar number to those who have mental health conditions. Despite this number, which – contrary to the Ministry’s comments – has stayed stable, arthritis is not yet a health priority, despite the health toll.
Chief Executive Sandra Kirby said this updated information should help New Zealand better plan for managing the overall burden of arthritis and other musculo-skeletal conditions.
“Increasing obesity rates are a particular concern for us. While it is well known there is a link between obesity and conditions like cardiovascular disease and diabetes, it is not so widely known that obesity is also linked to arthritis. Earlier research indicates that up to 24% of arthritis in knees could be attributed to obesity. So there will be flow on effects”.
“The overall ageing of the population is also a significant contributor to an increasing incidence of arthritis in New Zealand.”
“The economic cost of arthritis to New Zealand is $3.2 billion a year, which is about the same amount the country earns from oil and gas exploration.”
“It has long been known that arthritis is the leading cause of disability in New Zealand. But its increasing prevalence further highlights the importance of arthritis being treated as the serious health priority it is,” Ms Kirby concluded.