Background Osteoarthritis is an age-related debilitating disease of the joints. The disease is the leading cause of disability in the elderly and frequently interferes in both activity and social participation.
However, osteoarthritis has difficulties in competing with highly mortal and visible diseases in a political context. Therefore, the Danish Rheumatism Association progressively makes use of social costs as a selling point to politicians. Historically, the calculation of social costs has partly been based on professional judgements caused by lack of credible data. However, the present opportunities in data collection in Denmark give unique prospects of detailed calculations of social costs.
Objectives The aim of this analysis was to determine the economic consequences of osteoarthritis. This was done by estimating the social costs of osteoarthritis in Denmark. The perspective was partly macro economical and partly public cost-related.
Methods Data was used from the National Health Interview Survey from 2010 (NHIS-2010), which was a national representative survey based on responses from 15,165 Danish citizens aged 16 years or above. NHIS-2010 was linked with a wide range of register data within healthcare and welfare providing a unique opportunity of determining the respondents' use of health services etc. at an individual level.
In this economic “cost-of-illness” analysis (COI) both direct costs, which are costs for treatment in primary and secondary care, as well as indirect costs due to production losses was included.
The production losses were estimated by the Human Capital Method, where the production loss was considered permanent from the time of early retirement until the normal retirement age (65 years). The value of the production losses in the future was set to the expected income in the given period.
In the public cost-related part of the analysis, the perspective was limited to the cost of public funds and thus includes treatment costs (excluding any co-payment) and transfers. The results of this part of the analysis are therefore not social costs per se.
Results A total of 3,008 NHIS respondents responded that they have osteoarthritis now or suffer from effects of past osteoarthritis. This corresponds to 18.6%, or almost one-fifth of the Danish population aged 16 years or above having osteoarthritis-related complications in 2010.
The total social costs associated with osteoarthritis were estimated to €0.9 billion (6.8 billion DKK) in 2010. Additional treatment costs for citizens with osteoarthritis constituted the largest part.
In the public cost-related analysis, osteoarthritis was estimated to cause additional public expenditures in Denmark of €1.5 billion (11.5 billion DKK) in 2010.
Conclusions Due to new data, this report provides a unique insight into osteoarthritis' consequences for the economy. These new published estimates provide substantial economic arguments underlining the importance of better prevention and treatment of osteoarthritis. The results will be an important factor in the Danish Rheumatism Association's political campaigning.
Johnsen NF, Koch MB, Davidsen M and Juel K (2013) De samfundsmæssige omkostninger ved artrose. The National Institute of Public Health, University of Southern Denmark.
Disclosure of Interest None declared