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‘Musculoskeletal disorders impact 1.3 billion across globe’



There are about 1.3 billion cases of musculoskeletal disorders across the world, a study has found, describing an ‘enormous global burden of disability’.

The Australian research – the first to provide an overview of the global impact of all musculoskeletal disorders – examined data from the Global Burden of Disease Study 2017, which assessed the extent of diseases and injuries across 21 regions and 195 countries and territories since 1990.

The team found around 1.3 billion prevalent cases of musculoskeletal disorders, 121,300 deaths, and calculated that 138.7 million years have been lost due to ill-health, disability or early death in 2017. 

Senior author Dr Rachelle Buchbinder, of the Cabrini Institute and Monash University, warned musculoskeletal conditions are ‘under-recognised despite their enormous costs to individuals, the economy, and the health system’.

She continued: ‘Also, there has been a lack of any significant decline in the burden from these conditions over time, which means that there is still insufficient emphasis on addressing the problem.’

Dr Buchbinder also called for policy makers to be made aware of the size of this ‘growing problem’, particularly as populations around the world are rapidly ageing.

She said: ‘A global response is needed, and this should be integrated with other strategies that can address some of the modifiable and important risk factors of musculoskeletal disorders, including obesity, poor nutrition, smoking, and sedentary lifestyles.

‘As well, there should be an emphasis on reducing low-value care for some of the most burdensome conditions such as low-back pain and osteoarthritis that is contributing to the problem,’ she added.

Musculoskeletal disorders include rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, low-back pain, neck pain, gout, and related conditions.

The disorders – which affect muscles, tendons, ligaments, bones, and joints – can severely affect individuals’ physical and mental health, and are especially prevalent among aging adults.

Many researchers have studied these conditions and their rates in different regions of the world, but this study is the first to date to provide an overview of the burden of all musculoskeletal disorders.