Global, regional, and national burden of rheumatoid arthritis, 1990–2020, and projections to 2050: a systematic analysis of the Global Burden of Disease Study 2021

GBD 2021 Rheumatoid Arthritis Collaborators

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Background: Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic autoimmune inflammatory disease associated with disability and premature death. Up-to-date estimates of the burden of rheumatoid arthritis are required for health-care planning, resource allocation, and prevention. As part of the Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors Study (GBD) 2021, we provide updated estimates of the prevalence of rheumatoid arthritis and its associated deaths and disability-adjusted life-years (DALYs) by age, sex, year, and location, with forecasted prevalence to 2050. Methods: Rheumatoid arthritis prevalence was estimated in 204 countries and territories from 1990 to 2020 using Bayesian meta-regression models and data from population-based studies and medical claims data (98 prevalence and 25 incidence studies). Mortality was estimated from vital registration data with the Cause of Death Ensemble model (CODEm). Years of life lost (YLL) were calculated with use of standard GBD lifetables, and years lived with disability (YLDs) were estimated from prevalence, a meta-analysed distribution of rheumatoid arthritis severity, and disability weights. DALYs were calculated by summing YLLs and YLDs. Smoking was the only risk factor analysed. Rheumatoid arthritis prevalence was forecast to 2050 by logistic regression with Socio-Demographic Index as a predictor, then multiplying by projected population estimates. Findings: In 2020, an estimated 17·6 million (95% uncertainty interval 15·8–20·3) people had rheumatoid arthritis worldwide. The age-standardised global prevalence rate was 208·8 cases (186·8–241·1) per 100 000 population, representing a 14·1% (12·7–15·4) increase since 1990. Prevalence was higher in females (age-standardised female-to-male prevalence ratio 2·45 [2·40–2·47]). The age-standardised death rate was 0·47 (0·41–0·54) per 100 000 population (38 300 global deaths [33 500–44 000]), a 23·8% (17·5–29·3) decrease from 1990 to 2020. The 2020 DALY count was 3 060 000 (2 320 000–3 860 000), with an age-standardised DALY rate of 36·4 (27·6–45·9) per 100 000 population. YLDs accounted for 76·4% (68·3–81·0) of DALYs. Smoking risk attribution for rheumatoid arthritis DALYs was 7·1% (3·6–10·3). We forecast that 31·7 million (25·8–39·0) individuals will be living with rheumatoid arthritis worldwide by 2050. Interpretation: Rheumatoid arthritis mortality has decreased globally over the past three decades. Global age-standardised prevalence rate and YLDs have increased over the same period, and the number of cases is projected to continue to increase to the year 2050. Improved access to early diagnosis and treatment of rheumatoid arthritis globally is required to reduce the future burden of the disease. Funding: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Institute of Bone and Joint Research, and Global Alliance for Musculoskeletal Health.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e594-e610
JournalThe Lancet Rheumatology
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 10-2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Rheumatology
  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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