Arthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions have been shown to be Australia's fourth most expensive group of diseases, according to a report released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).
The report, Health-care expenditure for arthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions 2008-09, shows that in 2008-09, spending on these diseases totalled $5.69 billion, accounting for 9 per cent of total health-care spending.
AIHW spokesperson Louise York explained the overall findings of the report.
"Osteoarthritis accounted for 29 per cent – or $1.6 billion – of spending on arthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions."
This was followed by back problems (21 per cent or $1.17 billion), rheumatoid arthritis (6 per cent or $355 million) and osteoporosis (5 per cent or $306 million).
More than half of spending on arthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions was on hospital-admitted patient services ($3 billion), followed by 30 per cent on out-of-hospital medical expenses ($1.7 billion) and 16 per cent on prescription pharmaceuticals ($922 million).
York said that the type of spending varied in depending on the particular condition.
"Patterns of spending across health-care sectors varied significantly among different musculoskeletal conditions."
"For example, most spending for rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis was on pharmaceuticals (77 per cent and 63 per cent respectively), while for osteoarthritis, most was spent on admitted patient hospital services (77 per cent) such as joint replacement surgery and arthroscopies, " York said.
Spending on these conditions also varied by age, and was highest for people in the 65-74 age group ($1.2 billion).
York commented that the report showed that spending was higher within higher age brackets.
"However, spending per person was actually highest for people aged 75-84, at an average of $1,007 per person."
Generally, spending was higher for females than males, averaging $301 for females compared with $229 for males.
From 2000-01 to 2008-09, total health system spending on arthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions rose by 67 per cent. This compares with a total rise of 52 per cent for spending on all chronic diseases. Over the same period, the proportion of total expenditure on diseases spent on musculoskeletal conditions remained stable, at around 9 per cent.
"About 6.1 million people (28 per cent of the total population) were affected by musculoskeletal conditions in 2011-12," York said.