Burden of Musculoskeletal Conditions on Children and Adolescents


Lead Author(s): 

Edward H. Yelin, PhD
Miriam Cisternas, MA

Supporting Author(s): 

Sylvia I. Watkins-Castillo, PhD

In this updated edition of the Burden of Musculoskeletal Diseases in the U.S., data are presented on the prevalence and impact of this group of conditions among children. In 2012-2014, among the 77.4 million children and adolescents in the U.S. (those aged less than 18 years of age), an estimated 8.3 million had a musculoskeletal condition, 10.7% of all children. (Reference Table 8.16 PDF CSV)

Most (85.2%) of the children with musculoskeletal conditions had ambulatory visits totaling more than 31 million visits, or just under an average of four per child for all children with a musculoskeletal disease. Although a smaller proportion of children had visits to non-physician providers they made more visits and the average was 3.5 visits for all children with a musculoskeletal disease, resulting in almost as many visits to these providers, more than 29 million. Children with musculoskeletal conditions averaged more than four prescriptions filled per year, or just under 37 million in total. Very few (1.4%) had one or more home health care visits, but because the average was spread over the 8.3 million with any condition, the number of home health visits for the few having them approached 70 visits. Only 1 in 25 children (4.1%) were discharged from the hospital. Nevertheless, the 8.3 million children with musculoskeletal conditions had 410,000 hospital discharges. (Reference Table 8.17 PDF CSV)

All-cause medical care costs among children with musculoskeletal diseases, at $4,504 per child in 2012-2014, were less than among older persons with these conditions, but still amounted to more than $37 billion in the aggregate. Incremental medical care costs were higher among children, at $2,381 per child, than among those older, presumably because most children experience very low costs but those with musculoskeletal conditions are an exception to that rule. In aggregate, incremental costs among children with musculoskeletal conditions amounted to just under $20 billion a year in 2012-2014. (Reference Table 8.9 PDF CSV)

All-cause medical care costs among children in 2012-2014 were higher among boys than girls ($5,411 vs. $3,550 per child per year) but did not differ dramatically by race/ethnicity.  Children with these conditions who lacked health insurance had far lower all-cause medical care costs per year ($1,173) than those with private ($4,834) or public insurance ($3,994). (Reference Table 8.18 PDF CSV)


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