For the most up to date information on COVID-19 please visit the Department of Health Website.
Learn more about how the AIHW is assisting the COVID-19 response and our broader work on communicable diseases.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2019. Rheumatoid arthritis. Cat. no. PHE 252. Canberra: AIHW. Viewed 02 April 2020, https://pp.aihw.gov.au/reports/chronic-musculoskeletal-conditions/rheumatoid-arthritis
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2019). Rheumatoid arthritis. Retrieved from https://pp.aihw.gov.au/reports/chronic-musculoskeletal-conditions/rheumatoid-arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 30 August 2019, https://pp.aihw.gov.au/reports/chronic-musculoskeletal-conditions/rheumatoid-arthritis
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Rheumatoid arthritis [Internet]. Canberra: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2019 [cited 2020 Apr. 2]. Available from: https://pp.aihw.gov.au/reports/chronic-musculoskeletal-conditions/rheumatoid-arthritis
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2019, Rheumatoid arthritis, viewed 2 April 2020, https://pp.aihw.gov.au/reports/chronic-musculoskeletal-conditions/rheumatoid-arthritis
Get citations as an Endnote file:
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease where the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues. Rheumatoid arthritis can affect anyone at any age, and may cause significant pain and disability.
In 2016–17, there were 13,213 hospitalisations for rheumatoid arthritis, a rate of 54 per 100,000 population
About 458,000 Australians (1.9% of the total population) have rheumatoid arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis is most common in people aged 75 years or over
Rates of rheumatoid arthritis are slightly higher for women (2.3%) than men (1.5%)
Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic autoimmune disease characterised by inflammation of the joints, causing inflammation, pain, swelling, stiffness and loss of function in the joints. Rheumatoid arthritis most often affects the hand joints and both sides of the body at the same time.
In a healthy joint, the tissue lining the joint (called the synovial membrane or joint synovium) is very thin and produces fluid that lubricates and nourishes joint tissues. In rheumatoid arthritis, the immune system attacks the synovial membrane. The synovial membrane becomes thick and inflamed, resulting in unwanted tissue growth (Figure 1). As a result, bone erosion and irreversible joint damage can occur, leading to permanent disability .
Source: AIHW 2015. Musculoskeletal fact sheet: rheumatoid arthritis. Arthritis series no. 24. Cat. no. PHE 188. Canberra: AIHW.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a systemic disease, affecting the whole body, including the organs. This can lead to problems with the heart, respiratory system, nerves and eyes. Its cause is not well understood although there is a strong genetic component. Genetic factors are estimated to contribute 50–60% of the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis .
About 458,000 Australians (1.9% of the total population) have rheumatoid arthritis, based on self-reported data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2017–18 National Health Survey (NHS). Rheumatoid arthritis represented 13% of all arthritic conditions in 2017–18.
Rheumatoid arthritis is most common in people aged 75 years and over (Figure 2), although the onset of rheumatoid arthritis most frequently occurs in those aged 35–64 [3, 4, 5]. The prevalence of this disease is slightly higher for women (2.3%) compared with men (1.5%).
Australians have rheumatoid arthritis
Note: refers to people who self-reported that they were diagnosed by a doctor or nurse as having rheumatoid arthritis (current and long term) and also people who self-reported having rheumatoid arthritis.
Source: AIHW analysis of ABS 2019  (Data table).
There has been little change in the prevalence over the past 10 years. It is difficult to evaluate the full impact of this condition on affected individuals due to the limited national statistics available.
We'd love to know any feedback that you have about the AIHW website, its contents or reports.
The browser you are using to browse this website is outdated and some features may not display properly or be accessible to you. Please use a more recent browser for the best user experience.