60% of Australians suffering arthritis are of working age, a new report from Access Economics has found.
Exploding the myth that arthritis is an older person’s disease, the report, Arthritis – The Bottom Line: The Economic Impact Of Arthritis in 2004, warns of the major economic impact arthritis will have on employers and the welfare system if the disease is not taken seriously as a National Health Priority.Other key findings in the Report are:- Arthritis affects 3.4 million Australians (16.7% of the population)- The disability burden of arthritis is equal to that of dementia and second only to depression- In 2004, the financial costs (direct and indirect) of arthritis totalled $19.25 billion- If current trends continue in Australia, 1 in 5 people (around 4.6 million) will be living with arthritis by 2020- If an intervention in 2005 enabled the onset of arthritis to be delayed by 10 years, age-related incidences rates would be reduced by 11.1% (or 517,000 cases) by 2020.Commissioned by peak body, Arthritis Australia, the Report reveals the prevalence, cost and burden that arthritis places on Australia in terms of the economy, healthcare system and society at large. “Early diagnosis and early treatment of the disease are essential if this national economic burden is to be addressed,” says Mark Franklin, Chief Executive Office, Arthritis Australia. “Millions of dollars – indirect and direct costs of this “disease giant” – can be saved if the issue is taken seriously.”Arthritis is the major cause of disability and pain in Australia and the prevalence of arthritis is rapidly approaching that of cardiovascular disease.The growing incidence of arthritis has a detrimental impact on Government revenue because increasing numbers of people affected with arthritis either have to cease work altogether or are restricted to limited working hours, often in lower-paid jobs than their previous specialist occupations. In total the indirect costs of arthritis are dominated by the $6.8 billion in lost earnings and include $225 million in costs for paid carers, $88 million in travel costs and $48 million attributed to equipment and modifications related to the illness. The good news is that intervening early and often can generate massive savings across the community. If an intervention in 2005 enabled the onset of arthritis to be delayed by ten years,age-specific incidence rates would be reduced such that by 2020, prevalence would be 11.1% (or 517,000 cases) less than otherwise forecast.For this to happen, however, Arthritis Australia requires an immediate boost to its current resources which, in turn, would reap economic and social rewards.Based on present awareness and educational program delivery, Arthritis Australia estimates that it helped some 50,000 people participating more fully in their work, family and community life. This represents an annual cost saving for the Government of $51 million.”Our national network of Arthritis Offices provide professional services, telephone counselling and awareness and education programs, but we must reach more people and are asking the Government for an immediate injection of $5 million to support the growing need for further arthritis prevention and management measures,” says Mr Franklin.According to Arthritis Australia this $5 million investment would conservatively provide immediate annual savings of $1 million for the Government, $2.2 million for business and $5.7 million to national economy.The report also highlights the disparity in arthritis research funding, indicating that expenditure needs to double in order to reach the national average for all other diseases.”Arthritis must be put on the top of the National Health Agenda to ensure the incidence of this disease is reduced,” Mr Franklin says. “We must be able to provide a total support system for sufferers. Arthritis Australia needs resources to maintain existing services and extend those it already offers. The most critical element here is the Government’s response time – if we want any chance of ensuring a better quality of life for arthritis sufferers, it’s vital we act now.” Arthritis Australia says there are many cost-effective treatment options across different spectrums that can make a real difference to how sufferers cope with arthritis. “Getting a proper diagnosis early on and learning about pain and lifestyle management will dramatically increase a person’s chance at maintaining quality of life,” says Mr Franklin. “We urge people to act now, act often and speak to their doctor and Arthritis Australia about what’s right for them. People shouldn’t suffer their arthritis but do something about it.” For more information on arthritis management programs, treatment options or any other arthritis related queries, contact Arthritis Australia on 1800 011 041.(Source: Arthritis Australia, February 2005)