This report examines the differences in health-care use for doctor-diagnosed osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis between population groups. The report uses data from the 2004–05 National Health Survey, the 2004–05 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey and the AIHW National Hospital Morbidity Database. The focus is on health service use for those who report being diagnosed with the condition.
Several differences between population groups were noted in the use of primary health services and joint replacements for these conditions, particularly in relation to sex and socioeconomic status.
- Females were more likely to take actions to manage their osteoarthritis or osteoporosis in the 2 weeks before the 2004–05 National Health Survey than males. These actions included visiting a health professional, taking medication or making lifestyle changes. The level of inaction was 24% lower for females than males for osteoarthritis, and 29% lower for females than males for osteoporosis. No difference was noted for rheumatoid arthritis.
- Among those with osteoarthritis or osteoporosis, the rate of joint replacement surgery was lower for females than males. This contrasts with a tendency for females to have more severe disease.
- Among those with rheumatoid arthritis, females had a higher rate of joint replacement than males. This is consistent with a tendency toward more severe disease in females.
- Complementary medicine use for osteoarthritis was 32% lower in the lowest socioeconomic group than in the highest socioeconomic group. Similar results were noted for rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis.
- The rate of partial knee replacement for osteoarthritis was 38% lower among the lowest socioeconomic group than among the highest socioeconomic group. The rate of total hip replacement was 18% lower in the lowest socioeconomic group. These results contrast with the higher prevalence of osteoarthritis in the lowest socioeconomic group.
- The rate of total hip replacement for osteoporosis was 45% lower for those in the lowest socioeconomic group than for those in the highest socioeconomic group. There was no correlation between socioeconomic status and osteoporosis prevalence.