1060 million people with ‘other’ musculoskeletal disorders by 2050

A category of musculoskeletal disorders of our joints, muscles, bones, ligaments, tendons and spine are on the rise and a new forecast is as many as 1060 million people – up from 464 million – will be living with related disabilities by 2050, placing even greater pressure on stretched healthcare systems.

Published in the latest edition of Lancet Rheumatology, the Global Burden of Disease research was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and used population, health and insurance claims data across 204 countries and territories to measure the prevalence, years of life lived with disability and population data to identify the 2050 projection.

“We highlight there is a substantial burden of what are categorised as ‘other’ musculoskeletal disorders that would otherwise go unrecognised,” says joint first author Manasi Murthy Mittinty, Flinders University College of Medicine and Public Health Senior Lecturer and Harvard Medical School Advanced Global Clinical Scholar Research Fellow.

Dr Mittinty’s research forecasts rise in more than 150 musculoskeletal conditions by 2050.

“The research team has identified that musculoskeletal disorders of the types studied in this research, which excludes osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, low back pain and neck pain, are a large and growing source of disability in the world that requires public policy consideration,” she says.

“We based our forecast on population projections and ageing demographics, indicating that not only are the number of people worldwide living with other musculoskeletal conditions such as systemic lupus erythematosus and spondylopathies increasing but so will be their healthcare needs in 2050 and beyond.”

The research team identified:

  • ‘Other’ musculoskeletal disorders are a heterogeneous group of musculoskeletal conditions not captured elsewhere in disease-specific categories and are often overlooked in policy for musculoskeletal health;
  • ‘Other’ musculoskeletal disorders in 2020 ranked as the sixth-largest cause of years lived with disability (YLDs), 19th-largest cause of DALYs (Disability Adjusted Life years (DALYs);
  • Large YLD burden, despite all uncertainty, suggests high demand for therapeutic and rehabilitative services and is supported by insurance claims data indicating large number of health service visits.

Dr Mittinty says the research found musculoskeletal disorders globally are reported higher in females, increase overall with age and peak at 60-69 years.

“We have forecast the 494 million cases in 2020 is projected to grow substantially to reach 1060 million people living with other musculoskeletal disabilities by 2050.

“A factor which may add to the projection of course is the emergence of post-COVID-19 implications where a growing cohort of related conditions characterised by musculoskeletal symptoms and loss of mobility are recognised, adding further pressure on health systems and communities.”

Co-lead author with Dr Mittinty is Dr Tiffany Gill, from the University of Adelaide Medical School.

Global, regional and national burden of other musculoskeletal disorders, 1990-2020, and projections to 2050: a systematic analysis of the Global Burden of Disease Study 2021 published in Lancet Rheumatology, Volume 5, Issue 11, November 2023

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