State of Musculoskeletal Health 2018


We collect the best available data on the prevalence, risk factors, comorbidities, and impact of musculoskeletal conditions in the UK, so you can understand more about the number of people living with and affected by these conditions.

The State of Musculoskeletal Health 2018 is a resource for health professionals, policy makers, public health leads and anyone interested in musculoskeletal health. We believe that with the best information you can build awareness, make more informed decisions, feel more confident and ultimately help more people with musculoskeletal conditions.

For the full set of statistics, download the full State of Musculoskeletal Health 2018 report (PDF, 2.9 MB).

What is the scale of the problem?

What's the scale of the problem infographic.

Condition specific statistics

Inflammatory conditions Conditions of musculoskeletal pain Osteoporosis and fragility fractures
Over 400,000 people have rheumatoid arthritis. Over 8.75 million people aged 45 and over have sought treatment for osteoarthritis. Around 3 million people in the UK have osteoporosis.
12,000 children have juvenile idiopathic arthritis. 10 million people in England and Scotland alone have persistent back pain. Over 300,000 fragility fractures occur each year.
200,000 people have ankylosing spondylitis. Up to 2.8 million people in the UK have fibromyalgia.  
1.5 million people have gout.    

Do you want to know how many people have osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis or back pain in your area? Visit the MSK Calculator online tool.

Note-references and data sources for the statistics above are included in the full report.

Key factors affecting musculoskeletal health

Physical activity

Inactive people are at increased risk of developing a painful musculoskeletal condition in later life.

21-32% of adults (19+) in the UK do less than 30 minutes of physical activity per week.

Percentage of people (16+) inactive with long-lasting MSK conditions infographic.


Musculoskeletal problems constitute one of the greatest threats to the health of people who are obese.

Over half (62%) of adults (16+) in the UK are classified as being overweight or obese.

Percentage of people (16+) overweight or obese with long-lasting MSK conditions.


Musculoskeletal conditions are very common in multimorbidity.

By the year 2025 the number of people living with one or more serious long-term conditions in the UK will increase by nearly one million, rising from 8.2 million to 9.1 million.

Among people over 45 years of age who report living with a major long-term condition, more than three out of 10 also have a musculoskeletal condition.

Multimorbidity infographic.

What is the impact?

Quality of life

Musculoskeletal conditions such as low back pain are the top causes of years that people live with disability.

In 2016, 23.3% of years lived with disability were attributable to musculoskeletal conditions in the UK.

Over half (52.4%) of all working age (16-64 years) disabled people in the UK experience musculoskeletal conditions.

The pain and disability caused by arthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions result in a substantial loss in quality of life.


Musculoskeletal conditions are a leading cause of sickness absence. 30.8 million working days were lost in 2016, accounting for 22.4% of total sickness absence.

People with musculoskeletal conditions are less likely to be in work than people without health conditions, and more likely to retire early.

63% of working age adults with a musculoskeletal condition are in work compared to 81% of people with no health conditions.

Health and care services

Musculoskeletal conditions are largely managed in primary and community based care, however services are accessed across all levels of care.

One in five people (20%) consult a GP about a musculoskeletal problem every year.

Musculoskeletal problems are addressed in one in eight (12%) GP appointments.

1.36 million admissions to consultant care were due to musculoskeletal conditions in England in 2016-17, resulting in 2.27 million bed days. That’s 8.2% of all admissions to consultant care.


Musculoskeletal conditions account for the third largest area of NHS programme spending at £4.7 billion in 2013-14.64.

Treating the two most common forms of arthritis-osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis-is estimated to cost the economy £10.2 billion in direct costs to the NHS and wider healthcare system this year.

Conditions such as back pain account for around 40% of all sickness absence in the NHS and costs around £400 million per year.

Total annual cost to the UK infographic.

Economic benefits of musculoskeletal research

Investment into musculoskeletal research is money well spent.

A new study estimating the returns generated by public and charitable investment for musculoskeletal research in the UK has found that research into musculoskeletal conditions, such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and back pain, not only results in improved health outcomes but also generates economic gain for the UK.

Every £1 invested in musculoskeletal research leads to 7p of direct health benefits with a further 15-18p in benefits to the wider economy (i.e. spill over) every year, forever.

Yearly return for £1 of public or charity investment infographic.

Note-references and data sources for the statistics above are included in the full report.