Ann Rheum Dis 63:591-594 doi:10.1136/ard.2003.015479
  • Concise report

Prevalence and impact of arthritis among nursing home residents

  1. J E Abell1,
  2. J M Hootman2,
  3. C G Helmick2
  1. 1Department of Biometry and Epidemiology, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, SC, USA
  2. 2Division of Adult and Community Health, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA, USA
  1. Correspondence to:
    Dr J M Hootman
    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 4770 Buford Highway NE, Mailstop K-45, Atlanta, GA 30341;
  • Accepted 23 September 2003


Objective: To determine the prevalence, characteristics, and impact of arthritis in the US nursing home population.

Methods: A national cross sectional sample of US nursing homes (8138 sampled residents in 1406 nursing homes) from the 1997 National Nursing Home Survey provided demographic and functional characteristics for residents with primary arthritis, any arthritis, or no arthritis diagnosis at admission.

Results: Of the estimated 1.6 million current nursing home residents in 1997, only 43 000 (3%) had a primary and 300 000 (19%) had any arthritis diagnosis at admission. People with a primary or any arthritis diagnosis received physical/occupational therapy, used wheelchairs and walking aids, and needed assistance with walking and transferring more often than those with no arthritis diagnosis.

Conclusions: These national estimates suggest that arthritis is underreported in nursing home residents. Because arthritis contributes to an increased physical burden on staff and decreased functional capability of residents, both staff and residents can benefit from better diagnosis, intervention, and education.