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Prevalence of self reported musculoskeletal diseases is high
  1. H S J Picavet1,
  2. J M W Hazes2
  1. 1National Institute of Public Health and the Environment, The Netherlands
  2. 2Academic Hospital Rotterdam, The Netherlands
  1. Correspondence to:
    Dr H S J Picavet, Centre for Prevention and Health Services Research (PZO, pb 101), National Institute of Public Health and the Environment, PO Box 1, 3720 BA Bilthoven, The Netherlands;


Objectives: To present the prevalence of self reported musculoskeletal diseases, the coexistence of these diseases, the test-retest reliability with six months in between, and the association with musculoskeletal pain symptoms.

Methods: Twelve layman descriptions of common musculoskeletal diseases were part of the questionnaires of a prospective cohort study of a random sample in the general Dutch population aged 25 years or more (baseline: n=3664, follow up after six months: n=2338). Data collection also included information about pain relating to five different anatomical areas.

Results: Osteoarthritis of the knee (men 10.1%, women 13.6%) was amongst the most reported musculoskeletal diseases, whereas the figures for self reported rheumatoid arthritis (RA) were 1.6% and 4.6% for men and women, respectively. The coexistence of these diseases is high: 47 of the 66 combinations were reported more often than would be expected if they were independent of each other (p<0.05). For most diseases the test-retest reliability was good (κ between 0.6 and 0.8), but for repetitive strain injury (κ=0.37) and chronic arthritis other than RA (κ=0.44) the agreement was fair to moderate. All complaints of pain were more often reported by those with musculoskeletal diseases than those without those diseases, and the pain pattern was disease-specific.

Conclusions: Self reported musculoskeletal diseases are highly prevalent, with a fair to good reliability and a disease-specific pain pattern. Health surveys are a limited but valuable source of information for this group of health problems, which is not available from most other sources of information.

  • musculoskeletal pain
  • population study
  • pain
  • epidemiology
  • DMC3, Dutch population based Musculoskeletal Complaints and Consequences Cohort
  • RA, rheumatoid arthritis
  • RSI repetitive strain injury
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