Notes on the data: Chronic diseases and conditions

Estimated population with musculoskeletal system diseases, 2017-18


Policy context:  Chronic musculoskeletal system diseases are chronic disorders of the muscles and bones. They include osteoarthritis and osteoporosis. More than 6.1 million Australians are reported to have arthritis or a musculoskeletal condition. Most commonly reported conditions are back pain and various forms of arthritis. Almost 1.2 million of these are reported to have disability associated with their condition. People with musculoskeletal conditions tend to have higher rates or poor health, very high rates of psychological distress and very severe pain. Highly prevalent, they place a significant burden on the community, both economic and personal, including the use of hospital and primary care services, disruptions to daily life and lost productivity through disability [1,2].


  1. Rahman N, Penm E, Bhatia K. Arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions in Australia 2005: with a focus on osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis. Arthritis Series no. 1. (AIHW Cat. no. PHE 67). Canberra: AIHW; 2005.
  2. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). Chronic musculoskeletal conditions. [ONLINE] Available from:; last accessed 19 December 2019.


Small area estimates:

Data by Population Health Area, Local Government Area and Primary Health Network are available for the 2014-15 National Health Survey in the data archive.

Differences from data published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS):

Data by quintile of socioeconomic disadvantage and Remoteness will differ to the extent that data extracted from Survey TableBuilder have been randomised, whereas those published by the ABS are not. In addition, rates published by the ABS for modelled estimates are generally crude rates; rates published by PHIDU are age-standardised.

Indicator detail

These data refer to persons ever told by a doctor or nurse that they have a disease of the musculoskeletal system and connective tissue; or not diagnosed but who consider their condition to be current and long-term. A long-term condition is defined as a condition that is current and has lasted, or is expected to last, for 6 months or more.


Geography: Data available by Quintile of socioeconomic disadvantage of area and Remoteness Area


Numerator:  Estimated number of people with musculoskeletal system diseases as a current, long-term condition


Denominator:  Total population


Detail of analysis:  Indirectly age-standardised rate per 100 population; and/or indirectly age-standardised ratio, based on the Australian standard


Source:  Compiled by PHIDU based on direct estimates from the 2017–18 National Health Survey, ABS Survey TableBuilder.


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