Notes on the data: Chronic diseases and conditions

Estimated population with rheumatoid arthritis, 2017-18


Policy context:  Rheumatoid arthritis is second most common form of arthritis in Australia. It is a not only chronic but also a systemic autoimmune disease which occurs when the body’s immune system attacks the synovial membranes of within a joint. This causes inflammation, swelling stiffness and loss of function typically in smaller joints in hand and feet but also in other joints and other parts of the body as well [1,2].

Based on self-reported data from the 2017-18 National Health Survey (NHS), around 458,000 Australians (1.9% of the population) have rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis can occur at any age and the onset of this disease occurs in people aged 35-64 years, however this condition is most common in the 75 years and over age group. In addition, rheumatoid arthritis is slightly more prevalent in women (2.3%) than men (1.5%) [2].


  1. Ackerman IN., Bohensky MA., Pratt C., Gorelik A. and Liew D. Counting the cost: the current and future burden of arthritis. Part 1 Healthcare Costs. Arthritis Australia 2016. Available from:; last accessed 11 December 2019
  2. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). Rheumatoid arthritis. Cat. no. PHE 252. 2019. Available from:; last accessed 11 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 been told by a doctor or nurse that they have rheumatoid arthritis and 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 rheumatoid arthritis 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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