This work is part of a retrospective collection of 179 electronic theses and dissertations (ETDs) from the VCU Libraries pilot ETD system that were designated as available only to VCU users. Please contact us at if you have questions or if you are the author of one of these and would like to release it for online public access.

Non-VCU users: Please talk to your librarian about requesting this thesis through interlibrary loan.

Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Public Health


Epidemiology & Community Health


Background: Arthritis interferes with quality of life, results in enormous medical and social costs, and is the leading cause of disability in the United States. Overweight and obesity have been found to be associated with specific types of arthritis, but the relationship between excess body weight and arthritis in general has not been well characterized at the population level. Furthermore, previous studies failed to utilize the CDC validated surveillance case definition of arthritis. Objectives: To examine the association between body mass index (BMI: kg/m2) and arthritis using the CDC validated surveillance case definition of arthritis and to describe the prevalence of arthritis across population subgroups based on body mass index and other select characteristics. Methods: Cross-sectional data from the 2005 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey were analyzed. Using population weights, descriptive statistics and prevalences were generated. Univariate and multivariate analyses with 95% confidence intervals (CI) were conducted to examine the risk estimates (odds ratios/ORs) and to assess the relationship between body mass index and arthritis among U.S. adults, (N=356,112). SAS 9.1 software was used for all analyses.Results: Overall, 26% of US adults had self-reported arthritis. Obese persons (BMI: >30) were 2 times more likely to report arthritis compared to normal weight respondents, (BMI: 40): OR= 3.1, 95%CI= 2.9, 3.4; Class II Obesity, (BMI: 35-39.9): OR=2.4, 95% CI= 2.3, 2.6; Class I Obesity, (BMI: 30-34.9): OR= 2.0, 95% CI= 1.9, 2.1] The association between the BMI groups and arthritis did not change significantly after taking demographic and socioeconomic variables into account. Older age, female gender, higher income, and lack of any physical activity were associated with a higher odds of reporting arthritis, while insurance status and being non-White were not.Conclusions: BMI is an important independent risk factor for self-reported arthritis. Resources must be allocated to prevent and reduce weight gain in the population, especially among women and younger adults.


Part of Retrospective ETD Collection, restricted to VCU only.


© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

June 2008