Osteoarthritis is one of the most common causes of pain and disability in the musculoskeletal system and the knee is one of the principal joints to be affected. Even if the prevalence of knee osteoarthritis is high, the prevalence, as well as the prevalence of osteoarthritis of other sites, increases rapidly with age and the disease is often seen as a “disease of the elderly”. Outcomes such as work ability, sick leave and disability pension have mostly been secondary objectives and research is scarce and often based on limited numbers. Results have also been inconclusive. However knee osteoarthritis often starts before retirement age, the disease is not uncommon in working subjects and the effect on work ability, sick leave and disability pension needs attention. Furthermore, in most European countries the retirement age is changing to higher ages.
The focus of the presentation is knee osteoarthritis, sick leave and disability pension. In a first study we used the Skåne Health Care Register (covering a population of 1.2 million) and the National Social Insurance register to identify all subjects seeking health care for knee osteoarthritis (ICD-10 code M17) and to calculate the share who received either sickness benefit or disability pension payment.
Doing this showed that patients with knee OA had an almost two-fold increased risk of sick leave and about 40-50% increased risk of disability pension compared to the general population. Further, in the Swedish population, over 2% of the total amount of sick days in the society was attributable to knee OA or associated comorbidities, life style or socioeconomic background in the knee OA patients.
In a second study we used the medical record systems to collect information on dates and diagnostic codes for a total number of 20472 sick leave periods. The group of musculoskeletal disorders was the largest group with 3371 (17%) sick leave periods. Knee osteoarthritis with 194 sick leave periods (6%) was the fourth most common diagnosis within this group. Sick leaves for knee osteoarthritis were generally longer than average. As much as 53% of all sick leaves due to knee osteoarthritis exceeded 90 days (as compared to 25% of all sick leaves).
Thus, osteoarthritis, despite often being viewed as a “disease of the elderly”, is an important cause for sick leave and disability pension and more research is needed on risk factors and possible interventions.
Hubertsson J, Petersson IF, Thorstensson CA, Englund M, Risk of sick leave and disability pension in working age women and men with knee osteoarthritis. Ann Reum Dis, 2013 Mar;72(3):401-5
Disclosure of Interest None Declared