Commenting on the findings, Medibank Chief Medical Officer Dr Linda Swan, says that while osteoarthritis in younger age groups could be connected to exercise with poor biomechanics and repetitive knee injuries, escalating national obesity levels are also likely to be contributing to the increased prevalence of joint issues in younger Australians.
Excess weight as a contributor
The Index shows that Aussies’ waistlines have continued to expand over the last eight years, particularly amongst Gen Y and X, where the number of those falling into the ‘obese’ BMI category has increased by 7.8%1 and 6.1%2 respectively.
“As a nation, we’re heavier than we were in 2007, and we can see this trend is particularly pronounced amongst younger generations, which may support the rise in osteoarthritis cases in these age groups. Excess weight has been found to put additional stress on joints which could lead to osteoarthritic symptoms such as joint stiffness, tenderness and swelling,” says Dr Swan.
Supporting this link, the Index found the average BMI for osteoarthritis sufferers was 29.31, higher than that of the general population, at just 27.30. Interestingly, Gen Xs suffering from osteoarthritis recorded the highest average BMI across all generations, averaging 30.66. The average BMI for healthy weight range is 18.50 to 24.99.
Joint trauma as a result of physical activity
The Index also found that Aussies are adopting more active lifestyles, with the percentage of people -- particularly amongst Gen Y and X -- choosing to regularly partake in physical activity increasing steadily over the last eight years.