Understanding the relationship between osteoarthritis and work: a systematic review

Reasons for the study

Arthritis is among the most prevalent chronic health problems in Canada. It is estimated to affect more than 4.4 million people, which makes it the leading cause of physical disability in Canadian adults. Although often thought of as a disease of aging, about 60 per cent of people with arthritis are under age 65, with most being in their prime earning years (ages 45+). As a result, costs for arthritis are high. In 2000, the estimated burden of the disease in Canada was $6.4 billion per year, with two thirds ($4.3 billion) being indirect costs largely related to productivity losses and long-term disability. Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common type of arthritis and ranks among the top ten causes of disability world-wide. Of increasing interest are personal and environmental factors that may contribute to the development of OA or aggravate its trajectory over time, particularly the role of occupational activities. This systemic review is examining the research evidence to see if there is an association between OA and work.

Objectives of the study

  • To examine the current literature to ascertain the level and quality of evidence for a causal relationship between work-related activities/exposures and the development of OA, including the type of work activities potentially associated with OA and whether the amount of activity matters
  • To examine factors that may independently relate to the development of OA or that may modify or mediate the relationship between work activities and trajectory of OA in terms of sustaining work

Anticipated results/impact

Findings from this study will be important to the OA research community, clinical practitioners, workers’ compensation boards and policy-makers.

Project status


Research team

Monique Gignac, Institute for Work & Health (PI)
Emma Irvin, Institute for Work & Health (PI)
Kim Cullen, Institute for Work & Health
Dorcas Beaton, Institute for Work & Health
Quenby Mahood, Institute for Work & Health
Dwayne Van Eerd, Institute for Work & Health
Catherine Backman, University of British Columbia
Christopher McLeod, University of British Columbia

Participating organizations

The Arthritis Society

Funded by