Diabetes is associated with elevated risks of arthritis

By Donna Itzstein

Diabetes Queensland pharmacist



Study statistics -109 218 individuals   ≥ 40 years

9,238 live with diabetes (8.5%)

mean aged 65.6 ± 11.0 years

males 55.6%

BMI was 28.9 ± 5.5 kg/m2

99,980 had no diabetes

mean age

 59.2 ± 11.8 years

males 46.7%

BMI was 25.8 ± 4.4 kg/m2


The following article is based on research presented at the European Association Diabetes Annual Meeting in Berlin in October 2018.  This study, led by Dr Stig Molsted, uses data that is self-reported by the patient and was provided by the Danish National Health Survey 2013(1). 


Percentage %  incidence

With diabetes

Without diabetes







Rheumatoid arthritis



Back pain



Neck pain





The conclusion from these results is that diabetes is associated with significantly elevated odds of having arthritis and musculoskeletal pain. The increased incidence of osteoarthritis could be partially due to an increase in average body mass index between the two groups.


The strongest association was the increased incidence of rheumatoid arthritis in those living with diabetes. As this group mainly consists of people living with type 2 diabetes, the possible link is with the chronic inflammation present in both conditions, rather than autoimmune type 1 diabetes.


Another strong possibility is the use of steroid medication and reduced physical activity in those living with rheumatoid arthritis increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Pain may have negative impacts on the level of physical activity in individuals with diabetes.


Physical activity is an acknowledged component in the treatment of diabetes and arthritis.  


Improved glycaemic management, mobility and pain scores may result from guided exercise.


As health care professionals, we can inform patients with diabetes and musculoskeletal conditions, that guided physical activity has strong benefits.


For more information on this topic or general enquiries please contact us at Diabetes Queensland via the NDSS Helpline on 1300 136 588 or




I'd like to read more about...

Click to see more or the + to add to your topics of interest

Articles just for you!

Get content tailored just for you through by choosing your topics of interest.

Choose Now >