Why Women Are More Likely Than Men to Develop Arthritis

Arthritis is the most common cause of disability in the United States, affecting nearly 50 percent of all men and women by the age of 65. But this condition does not affect men and women equally. Estimates show that one in four women have been diagnosed with arthritis, compared with one in five men. This disparity can be partly explained by biological differences.

Studies have found that women have less joint cartilage than men which increases their chances of developing osteoarthritis. Women also tend to have weaker muscles and ligaments, thus increasing their risk of joint injuries that could lead to osteoarthritis.

Female sex hormones may also be a factor in arthritis risk. Estrogen and progesterone play an active role in body’s immune system and inflammatory response, which may predispose women to developing rheumatoid arthritis or lupus (Source: Sharecare). Both these conditions are autoimmune disorders in which the body’s own immune system attacks healthy cells. Women tend to have hardier immune systems, which may explain why more women develop autoimmune disorders than men.

While women have a greater overall risk of developing arthritis, there are certain types of arthritis more commonly found in men. Gout, a condition in which uric acid crystalizes and deposits in the joints, is more prevalent in younger men. Men are also more prone to experiencing hip arthritis, while women tend to have arthritis in their knees or hands (Source: The New York Times).

Certain types of arthritis affect men or women disproportionately, but both genders can greatly benefit by taking steps to prevent arthritis and preserve joint health. These include:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Exercising regularly
  • Eating fish that are high in omega-3 fatty acids (salmon, mackerel, trout, tuna, and herring)
  • Avoiding injuries
  • Talking to your doctor about supplements