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Extended Report
The global burden of rheumatoid arthritis: estimates from the Global Burden of Disease 2010 study
  1. Marita Cross1,
  2. Emma Smith1,
  3. Damian Hoy2,
  4. Loreto Carmona3,
  5. Frederick Wolfe4,
  6. Theo Vos2,5,
  7. Benjamin Williams6,
  8. Sherine Gabriel7,
  9. Marissa Lassere8,9,
  10. Nicole Johns5,
  11. Rachelle Buchbinder10,11,
  12. Anthony Woolf12,
  13. Lyn March1
  1. 1Institute of Bone & Joint Research, University of Sydney, Royal North Shore Hospital, St Leonards, New South Wales, Australia
  2. 2School of Population Health, University of Queensland, Herston, Queensland, Australia
  3. 3Instituto de Salud Musculoesquelética (InMusc), Calle Hilarión Eslava, Madrid, Spain
  4. 4National Data Bank for Rheumatic Diseases, Wichita, Kansas, USA
  5. 5Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, USA
  6. 6Faculty of Medicine, University of New South Wales, St George Clinical School, Kogarah, New South Wales, Australia
  7. 7Department of Health Sciences Research, Mayo Foundation, Rochester, Minnesota, USA
  8. 8Faculty of Medicine, University of NSW, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  9. 9Department of Rheumatology, St George Hospital, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  10. 10Monash Department of Clinical Epidemiology, Cabrini Institute, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  11. 11Department of Epidemiology & Preventive Medicine, School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, Monash University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  12. 12Department of Rheumatology, Royal Cornwall Hospital, Truro, UK
  1. Correspondence to Professor Lyn March, Institute of Bone & Joint Research, Royal North Shore Hospital, University of Sydney, St Leonards, NSW 2065, Australia; lyn.march{at}


Objectives To estimate the global burden of rheumatoid arthritis (RA), as part of the Global Burden of Disease 2010 study of 291 conditions and how the burden of RA compares with other conditions.

Methods The optimum case definition of RA for the study was the American College of Rheumatology 1987 criteria. A series of systematic reviews were conducted to gather age-sex-specific epidemiological data for RA prevalence, incidence and mortality. Cause-specific mortality data were also included. Data were entered into DisMod-MR, a tool to pool available data, making use of study-level covariates to adjust for country, region and super-region random effects to estimate prevalence for every country and over time. The epidemiological data, in addition to disability weights, were used to calculate years of life lived with disability (YLDs). YLDs were added to the years of life lost due to premature mortality to estimate the overall burden (disability-adjusted life years (DALYs)) for RA for the years 1990, 2005 and 2010.

Results The global prevalence of RA was 0.24% (95% CI 0.23% to 0.25%), with no discernible change from 1990 to 2010. DALYs increased from 3.3 million (M) (95% CI 2.6 M to 4.1 M) in 1990 to 4.8 M (95% CI 3.7 M to 6.1 M) in 2010. This increase was due to a growth in population and increase in aging. Globally, of the 291 conditions studied, RA was ranked as the 42nd highest contributor to global disability, just below malaria and just above iodine deficiency (measured in YLDs).

Conclusions RA continues to cause modest global disability, with severe consequences in the individuals affected.

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