Rheumatoid Arthritis by the Numbers: Facts and Statistics

What Are the Complications of RA?

RA increases your risk for more serious conditions, including heart disease and stroke. In fact, the risk of cardiac death is up 50% higher for people with RA, compared to the rest of the population.

RA patients are also hospitalized at a greater rate than people without RA.

One 2013 report from the Mayo Clinic looked at 799 patients with RA and 797 patients without RA in Olmsted County, Minnesota. The patients with RA experienced 2968 hospitalizations while those without it experienced 2069 hospitalizations.

The RA patients in the Mayo Clinic study were mostly hospitalized for depression and diabetes at much higher rates than patients who had these conditions, but not RA. There were no differences amongst the sexes, specific age groups, or based on the time of the year.

Disease activity appeared to play a role in the higher rates of hospitalization, as people with severe RA tend to have more complications.

Life Expectancy

RA isn’t fatal, but its complications can shorten your life. Infection deaths are more common in people with RA at 36%, compared to the 26% of people without RA, this according to researchers from Helsinki University Central Hospital in Finland.

Disease progress and severity vary from person to person. People with specific disease factors will have a more progressive and severe form of RA, while those that do not have these factors will have a mild to moderate form of the disease.

Many people are living with RA who are in their 80s and 90s, so having RA doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t have a long life. It means you need to work with your doctor to treat RA aggressively and make healthy lifestyle choices (eating well, exercising, avoiding smoking, etc.) to avoid complications that may affect your quality of life or shorten it.



Current research data shows drug-free remission from RA ranges from 3.6 to 22 %. Certain factors increase your chances of remission, including having a milder form of the disease, early diagnosis, and aggressive treatment.

Men seem to have higher remission rates than women. One study from 2012 reported in Arthritis Care & Research found men have a 38% higher chance of remission than women and can sustain that during the first two years.

What Does All This Mean for You?

Currently, there is no cure for RA. There have been many advances in the last 30 years for treating RA, but none of them will cure you.

The goal of RA treatment is to lower inflammation, reduce pain, prevent joint damage, slow down the disease and prevent complications.

Rheumatoid arthritis facts and statistics are important to understanding how RA works and progresses and apply to groups of people from where these numbers were gathered. They may also be helpful to your doctor in developing a treatment plan.

But you and your RA are unique, and these statistics only offer guidance to many possible scenarios and outcomes. They cannot tell you how you will be affected personally by RA and what your health outcomes will be.

You can improve your outcomes by practicing healthy habits and adhering to your treatment plan. Successful management of RA will enhance your quality of life, reduce pain and symptoms, and promote better emotional and mental health.


American College of Rheumatology (Prevalence Statistics)

National Institutes of Health (The lifetime risk of adult-onset rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory autoimmune rheumatic diseases)

Science Daily (Women with rheumatoid arthritis have significantly higher risk of mortality)

National Institutes of Health (Prevalence of rheumatoid arthritis in persons 60 years of age and older in the United States: effect of different methods of case classification)

Fibromyalgia: Open Access (Fibromyalgia in the Context of Rheumatoid Arthritis: A Review)

National Institutes of Health (Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Disease Activity in Rheumatoid Arthritis Patients)

National Institutes of Health (Risk for rheumatic disease in relation to ethnicity and admixture)

Health Grove (Global Statistics: Rheumatoid Arthritis)

National Institutes of Health (Genetics of Rheumatoid Arthritis — A Comprehensive Review)

National Institutes for Health (Hospitalization Rates and Utilization among Patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis: a Population-Based Study from 1987 to 2012 in Olmsted County, Minnesota)

Arthritis Research & Therapy (Cigarette smoking and risk of rheumatoid arthritis: a dose-response meta-analysis)

Annals of Rheumatic Diseases (Association between testosterone levels and risk of future rheumatoid arthritis in men: a population-based case–control study)

National Institutes of Health (Infectious causes of death in patients with rheumatoid arthritis: an autopsy study)

Arthritis Research & Therapy (Sustained biologic-free and drug-free remission in rheumatoid arthritis, where are we now?)

National Institutes of Health (Significance of Sex in Achieving Sustained Remission in the Consortium of Rheumatology Researchers of North America (CORRONA) Cohort of Rheumatoid Arthritis Patients)

National Institutes for Health (Cardiovascular complications of Rheumatoid Arthritis – Assessment, prevention and treatment)

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