Skip to Accessibility Tools Skip to Content Skip to Footer

RA Statistics

Scientists called epidemiologists study patterns in the way diseases affect groups of people. For instance, epidemiologists are often called in to find out why an outbreak of a viral infection happens in a particular location or why one group of people may be more likely to get a certain disease than another group.

Epidemiologists also estimate how common a disease is. They determine the incidence of a disease, or how many new people are diagnosed with the disease each year, and the prevalence of a disease, or how many people in a population have the disease at any given time.


RA and other types of arthritis

Arthritis is a common health problem in the US population, affecting more than 46 million people and resulting in disability for 19 million people.1 In fact, among chronic diseases in the US, arthritis causes more disability than any other condition, including heart disease, diabetes, and back or spine problems.2 RA is the third most common type of arthritis behind osteoarthritis (prevalence 26.9 million) and gout (prevalence 6.1 million). RA affects approximately 1.3 million in the US.1

How common is RA among autoimmune diseases?

RA is one of the more common autoimmune diseases, with rates higher than a number of other conditions, including psoriasis, Crohn’s disease, Type I (insulin-dependent) diabetes, lupus, and multiple sclerosis.3-5


Different arthritis types in US Juvenile Arthritis, Psoriatic Arthritis, Polymyalgia rheumatic, RA, Gout, Osteoarthritis.


The prevalence of RA globally and in the US

RA is a common chronic disease that affects about 1% of the world population.6 The prevalence of RA in the US, based on rates of RA from a 1995 Minnesota study and 2005 Census data, is currently estimated at approximately 1.29 million people or 0.6% of the population. This is down from an earlier estimate of 2.1 million people. The prevalence and incidence (new cases per year) of RA appears to have declined since the early 1960s.7 One study conducted in Rochester, Minnesota, found that the incidence of RA had declined for both men and women over a 40-year period.8

Even with these declines, RA occurs at twice the rate in women compared with men, with a prevalence of 1.06% in women (as a percentage of the total population) compared with 0.61% in men.6


Study shows, incidence of RA decreases over 40 years


Rates of RA in different age groups

The incidence (new cases per year) of RA increases with increasing age in most populations until about the eighth decade of life, when it declines.9 Results from the same Rochester, Minnesota study mentioned above found that the average yearly incidence among different age groups increased until about ages 74-84 and decreased thereafter. The incidence peaked earlier for women than men at about ages 55 to 64 years for women, compared with 75 to 84 years for men. At no point was the yearly incidence of RA higher for men than women.8


Study shoes incidence of RA is highest in the ages between 75-84


Prevalence in different populations

The prevalence of RA varies widely from population to population, with the lowest rates in Asian countries and higher rates among certain Native American populations. This suggests that there is indeed some genetic component underlying susceptibility to the disease.10

Written by: Jonathan Simmons | Last reviewed: September 2013.
1. Clough JD. The Cleveland Clinic Guide to Arthritis. New York, NY: Kaplan Publishing; 2009. 2. Hootman JM, Brault MW, Helmick CG, Theis KA, Armour BS. Prevalence and most common causes of disability among adults--United States, 2005. MMWR 2009;58:421-6. 3. Jacobson DL, Gange SJ, Rose NR, Graham NMH. Epidemiology and Estimated Population Burden of Selected Autoimmune Diseases in the United States. Clinical Immunology and Immunopathology 1997;84:223-43. 4. Peppercorn MA. Definition, epidemiology, and risk factors in inflammatory bowel disease. In: Rutgeerts P, Grover S, eds. UptoDate. Wolters Kluwer Health. Accessed at: 2013. 5. Gelfand JM, Weinstein R, Porter SB, Neimann AL, Berlin JA, Margolis DJ. Prevalence and treatment of psoriasis in the United Kingdom: a population-based study. Arch Dermatol 2005;141:1537-41. 6. Gibofsky A. Overview of epidemiology, pathophysiology, and diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis. Am J Manag Care 2012;18:S295-302. 7. Helmick CG, Felson DT, Lawrence RC, et al. Estimates of the prevalence of arthritis and other rheumatic conditions in the United States. Part I. Arthritis Rheum 2008;58:15-25. 8. Doran MF, Pond GR, Crowson CS, O'Fallon WM, Gabriel SE. Trends in incidence and mortality in rheumatoid arthritis in Rochester, Minnesota, over a forty-year period. Arthritis Rheum 2002;46:625-31.3. 9. Silman AJ, Hochberg MC. Descriptive epidemiology of rheumatoid arthritis. In: Hochberg MC, Silman AJ, Smolen JS, Weinblatt ME, Weisman MH, eds. Rheumatoid Arthritis. Philadelphia, Penn: Mosby Elsevier; 2009:15-22. 10. Silman AJ, Pearson JE. Epidemiology and genetics of rheumatoid arthritis. Arthritis Res 2002;4 Suppl 3:S265-72.