Social and Personal Costs of Arthritis and Rheumatic Diseases

An Exploratory Survey

image of Social and Personal Costs of Arthritis and Rheumatic Diseases

Musculoskeletal conditions are the most common cause of severe pain, physical disability and temporary absence from work amongst the advanced nations. They are estimated to consume up to 3% of gross domestic product in Western countries in an average year. Arthritis and rheumatic diseases are a large part of these conditions and they are thus a major burden on society's health and social care services. They are even more pronounced as sources of personal burdens and reduced participation in employment and society in general. Women are on the whole significantly more affected by rheumatic diseases than men. The present pilot report surveys these differing cost environments in Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. The work was carried out for the Nordic Rheuma Council (NRR). The author, Stefán Ólafsson, is a professor of sociology at the University of Iceland.



On Social and Personal Costs of Diseases

In the literature on socio-economic cost of illnesses generally, and arthritis- related illnesses specifically, it is customary to look at economic, societal and personal perspectives on costs or burdens of illnesses. This is important since it is obviously not solely the direct medical cost of the health services that matters, but also issues such as lost participation in employment and social affairs, as well as issues of individuals’ quality of life. It is thus also common to separate direct costs, indirect costs and intangible costs or burdens. We will follow that course and specify some of the main aspects of costs that have featured prominently in the literature. This is important for our task, which relates to clarifying how to proceed with more detailed assessments of the societal and personal costs of arthritis-related illnesses. In table II.1 we outline first the main aspects of costs.


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