Musculoskeletal, Circulatory, and Respiratory Conditions


Lead Author(s): 

Stuart I. Weinstein, MD
Edward H. Yelin, PhD

Supporting Author(s): 

Sylvia I. Watkins-Castillo, PhD
On an age-adjusted basis, musculoskeletal conditions are reported equally or more frequently than other common chronic or serious medical conditions related to the circulatory or respiratory systems by persons age 18 and older. Three of the four most common medical conditions reported in 2012 were musculoskeletal conditions: low back pain, chronic joint pain, and arthritis. The other most commonly reported medical condition is chronic hypertension. (Reference Table 1.3.1 PDF CSV)
Prevalence of Top Three Self-Reported Medical Conditions, by Age, United States 2012
Nearly 66 million adults reported low back pain, the most frequently reported musculoskeletal condition, with an age-adjusted rate of 28 in 100 persons age 18 or older reporting this condition. Among persons reporting low back pain, nearly 23 million, or more than one-third, also reported pain radiating down the leg below the knee. Cervical/neck pain is also a commonly reported musculoskeletal disease, reported by 33.5 million adults in 2012.

In recent years, chronic joint pain, defined as joint pain lasting three months or longer, has approached the level of low back pain as a common musculoskeletal condition. Chronic joint pain, was reported by 63.1 million adults age 18 and older (27 of 100 persons), while 51.8 million (22 in 100) reported having been diagnosed with arthritis. Chronic joint pain and arthritis are not mutually exclusive and may be reported by the same individual. Although age is a general predictor of chronic joint pain and arthritis, with more than 4 in 10 persons age 65 years and older reporting one or both of these conditions, the rate of reported chronic joint pain in younger persons is rapidly increasing. In 2012, nearly one in five persons age 18 to 44 reported they experienced chronic joint pain, while one-third (35%) age 45 to 64 reported chronic joint pain. Active lifestyles will continue to be a major cause of joint pain in the coming years. (Reference Table 1.3.2 PDF CSV) Prevalence of Self-Reported Musculoskeletal Diseases, by Age, United States 2012
Chronic hypertension, defined as hypertension diagnosed at two or more physician visits, is the only other medical condition that approaches the rate of chronic musculoskeletal conditions. Among adults age 18 and older, 59.8 million persons reported chronic hypertension in 2012, an age-adjusted rate of 25 in 100 persons. Coronary or heart conditions, which increase with age, were reported by 26.6 million, a rate of 11 per 100 persons. Chronic respiratory ailments, while common, are reported in significantly lower numbers, with sinusitis, reported by 28.5 million (12 per 100) persons, the most common condition.

Sex is a greater predictor of chronic musculoskeletal and respiratory conditions than of chronic circulatory conditions. Among all musculoskeletal and respiratory conditions, females are more likely to report a specific condition than are males. Similar proportions of males and females reported chronic circulatory conditions in 2012. (Reference Table 1.3.1 PDF CSV)

Chronic circulatory and respiratory conditions do not show the racial variation seen in musculoskeletal conditions, with the exception of the Asian population reporting nearly all conditions at lower rates than other races. Musculoskeletal conditions, overall, are reported in higher proportions by persons of the white race than by persons of the black/African American or Asia races. Persons of other or mixed race as well as persons of white race report slightly higher rates of musculoskeletal conditions that those of the black/African American and Asian race. Chronic hypertension is highest among those of black/African American races. (Reference Table 1.3.3 PDF CSV)


  • 2014

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