Self-Reported Musculoskeletal Conditions


Lead Author(s): 

Beatrice J. Edwards, MD

Supporting Author(s): 

Sylvia I. Watkins-Castillo, PhD

Arthritis is self-reported in 2015 at the highest rate among persons aged 75 years and older (51%), but by nearly as many in the 65 to 74-year age range (48%). Only 29% of persons age 45 to 64 years self-report they have a form of arthritis. Chronic joint pain has a similar reporting pattern as arthritis, but with somewhat lower rates – 47% among those 65 and older and 37% by those 45 to 64-years of age. Low back pain, on the other hand, was self-reported at the highest rate by persons aged 45 to 64-years (35%), closely followed by all people age 65 years and older (34%). Overall, 124.6 million people age 18 years and older self-reported one or more types of musculoskeletal conditions in 2015. (Reference Table 7B.1 PDF CSV)

The most common joint reported by the 73 million people over the age of 18 years with chronic pain in 2015 is the knee (47 million), followed by the shoulder (22 million). However, the rate per 100 persons in the various age groups reporting chronic pain in specific joints varies. Knee pain (32%) and hip pain (14%) are reported at the highest level by those age 75 and older, while shoulder (15%), fingers (15%), ankle (8%), wrist (9%), and toes (6%) are reported highest by persons age 65 to 74. The only site with the highest reported chronic pain by persons age 45 to 64 years is the elbow (7%). All age groups reported chronic pain in a mean of just over two joint sites. Overall, joint pain in the ankle, wrist, elbow, and toes is lower among those in the oldest age group compared to those 45 to 74 years of age, possibly due to this population segment being less active and placing lower stress on these joints. (Reference Table 7B.1 PDF CSV)

Self-reported limitations in performing activities of daily living from arthritis and back or neck problems affect about one in ten people. Limitations caused by arthritis increase steadily as the populations ages, while back and neck problems are relatively consistent after the age of 45. While overall persons age 18 to 45 reported few limitations, back and neck problems are the most common cause. (Reference Table 7B.1 PDF CSV)

Bed and Lost Workdays

People age 45 to 64 years accounted for 41% of the 54 million persons age 18 and over who reported bed days in 2015 due to musculoskeletal conditions, but 50% of the total bed days reported taken. A bed day is defined as one-half or more days in bed due to injury or illness, excluding hospitalization. The greater number of total bed days reported by this age group is due to a high mean of 24.8 days per person combined with large share of the population reporting bed days because of a musculoskeletal condition. (Reference Table 7B.1 PDF CSV)

This same age group also accounted for slightly more than half (51%) of the 36 million lost workdays due to musculoskeletal conditions reported by people age 18 years and older and in the workforce. People aged 65 years and older reported only 6% of total lost workdays because of the low number that are still in the workforce. (Reference Table 7B.1 PDF CSV)


  • Fourth Edition

Chapter Graphs

To save an individual graph, right-click and select Save Image As

Topic Tables

Click on an image to view PDF