The Global Burden of Disease study conducted in 2010 covered 291 conditions. By analysing data from that report, Australian researchers have established that rheumatoid arthritis (RA) ranks 42nd in terms of contribution to global disability.
The Australian research team has produced several similar reports, analysing the global burden of conditions such as neck pain, knee and hip osteoarthritis and musculoskeletal conditions in general. These reports have been published in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases journal.
To determine the contribution of RA to global disability, the researchers systematically collected age and sex-specific epidemiological data for RA prevalence, incidence and mortality. They were particularly concerned with YLDs (years of life lived with disability) and years of life lost because of premature mortality. This information helped the team estimate the total burden in disability-adjusted life years (DALYs).
The review showed virtually no change in RA prevalence between 1990 and 2010, which was calculated at 0.24%. But the situation was quite different with regard to DALYs: over that period, their number went up from 3.3 million to 4.8 million. The researchers attributed the rise to population growth and longer life spans.
When all the analytical work was completed and the results processed, RA landed at number 42 in terms of contribution to global disability. Immediately above it was malaria, while the position after RA was occupied by iodine deficiency. In the concluding remarks of their report, the authors said that RA remained a cause of modest global disability, leading to severe consequences for the people affected by the condition.