Why Arthritis and Disability Matter

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), over one billion people- approximately 15% of the global population- have some form of disability. As the WHO explains, disability “is a complex phenomenon, reflecting the interaction between features of a person’s body and features of the society in which he or she lives.” Disability includes impairment of a bodily function or structure, limitation in activity, or restricted ability to participate and be involved in life situations.

Arthritis is the most common cause of disability in the United States, with 22% of adults reporting it as a diagnosis and 9% reporting that their diagnosed arthritis caused them to be limited in daily activities. Worldwide rates of arthritis have increased by 45% and are expected to continue increasing. In terms of death and disability, arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions have the fourth greatest impact on the overall health of the world population.

Current Research

Faculty from across the Gillings School study both physical and psychosocial aspects of arthritis prevention and control. Recently our researchers have developed an automated, web-based pain coping skills training program for people with pain due to osteoarthritis of the hip or knee (“PainCOACH”) in collaboration with Duke University. They are working with researchers in Australia to evaluate an intervention pairing PainCOACH with physiotherapy. They are finding ways to help couples coping with arthritis work together more successfully to initiate and maintain increased lifestyle physical activity, and exploring the impact of social support on pain control and arthritis self-management.
UNC is also home to the Thurston Arthritis Research Center (TARC), a multidisciplinary clinical research center that seeks to identify better ways to address the costly public health issue of osteoarthritis.

Additional Research in the Fields of Arthritis and Disability

Study reveals limitations of maternal health services for deaf women in Cape Town

PTSD may accelerate immune system aging

Variations in hip shape are associated with radiographic knee osteoarthritis

Annual Incidence of Knee Symptoms and Four Knee Osteoarthritis Outcomes in Johnston County, North Carolina


Highlighted Leaders in the Field