9 August 2013
University of Otago study reinforces Arthritis New Zealand messages
University of Otago Researchers have found that obesity is set to overtake smoking as the major cause of declining
health by 2016.
This is a message Arthritis New Zealand have been sharing since the release of the ‘The Economic Cost of Arthritis in
New Zealand’ in 2006.
“Increasing obesity rates are a particular concern for us,” said Sandra Kirby, Arthritis New Zealand Chief Executive.
“While it is well known there is a link between obesity and conditions like cardiovascular disease and diabetes, it is
not so widely known that obesity is also linked to arthritis. Research indicates that up to 24% of arthritis in knees
could be attributed to obesity. So there will be flow on effects”.
“The overall ageing of the population is also a significant contributor to an increasing incidence of arthritis in New
“The economic cost of arthritis to New Zealand is $3.2 billion a year, which is about the same amount the country earns
from oil and gas exploration.”
“It has long been known that arthritis is the leading cause of disability in New Zealand. But its increasing prevalence
further highlights the importance of arthritis being treated as the serious health priority it is and giving further
evidence to consideration of an awareness campaign,” Ms Kirby concluded.
Arthritis New Zealand is the national organisation focussed on raising awareness of the more than 140 different forms of
arthritis, advocating for those with the condition, and providing advice and support.
Key findings from survey:
Note to editors
• For this report arthritis is defined as those people for whom a doctor has told they have any type of arthritis,
including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, lupus and psoriatic arthritis.
• There are over 140 types of arthritis
• Osteoarthritis, gout and rheumatoid arthritis are the most common forms of arthritis in New Zealand
• Gout is of particular concern for Maori and Pacific health with an estimated 22,000 Maori men and 13,750 Pacific men
being treated for gout in the community. Winnard et al (2012)
• People with arthritis are 5% less likely to be employed than those without arthritis
• Health sector costs of arthritis were estimated to be $695m in 2010, 22% of total financial costs.