The Epidemiology of Agriculture-related Osteoarthritis and its Impact on Occupational Disability

Steven Kirkhorn, Robert T. Greenlee, Jonathan C. Reeser

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


Background: Hip and knee osteoarthritis and undiagnosed chronic joint pain are more prevalent in agricultural workers than other occupational groups, significantly impacting the ability of small farm operators and farm workers to maintain a livelihood. Methods: Agricultural risk factors, economic impacts, national and state AgrAbility data, gender, and farm/non-farm prevalence differences of arthritis and joint arthropathy in a Wisconsin farm cohort are reviewed. Results: Agricultural workers (primarily male) are at increased risk for developing osteoarthritis of the hip and knee. In Wisconsin, the prevalence rate of osteoarthritis is higher in a male farm vs. a male rural non-farm cohort. Arthritis comprises 10%-12% of the disability referrals to state and national AgrAbility programs. Back pain, joint injury, and orthopedic injury account for another 38%. The ability to perform agricultural job duties is significantly affected by arthritis and lack of access to health care. Obesity is an additional independent risk factor for osteoarthritis in the rural population. Conclusions: The agricultural work force is at particular risk for arthritis-related disability. Improved access to health care for diagnosis and treatment can lessen disability. Prevention of arthritis is multi-factorial, involving ergonomic improvements, lifestyle modification to prevent obesity, and adequate medical treatment of arthritis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)38-44
Number of pages7
JournalWisconsin medical journal
Issue number7
StatePublished - Dec 22 2003


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