OBJECTIVE: Prevalence of osteoarthritis (OA) is expected to increase due to population aging. However, there is little information on the trends in the incidence of OA over time. The purpose of this study was to describe changes in physician-diagnosed OA incidence rates between 1996-1997 and 2003-2004 in British Columbia (BC), Canada. METHODS: We used data on all visits to health professionals and hospital admissions covered by the Medical Services Plan of BC (population approximately 4 million) for the fiscal years 1991-1992 through 2003-2004. Rates were standardized to the BC population in 2000. We used 2 definitions of OA: 1) at least 1 visit or hospitalization with a diagnostic code for OA, and 2) at least 2 visits or 1 hospitalization with a code for OA. Incidence rates were calculated with a 5-year run-in period to exclude prevalent cases. RESULTS: Between 1996-1997 and 2003-2004, crude incidence rates of OA based on definition 1 increased from 10.5 to 12.2 per 1,000 in men and from 13.9 to 17.4 per 1,000 in women. The age-standardized rates did not change in men and increased from 14.7 to 16.7 per 1,000 in women. Incidence rates based on definition 2 were almost 50% lower, but the trends were similar. CONCLUSION: We observed an increase in the incidence of OA in both men and women due to population aging and an additional increase in women beyond the effect of aging. These trends have important implications for public health and provision of health services to this very large group of patients.
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