There are a number of known osteoarthritis risk factors, these include:


  • Incidence of osteoarthritis increases with age but this increase occurs predominately in the knee, hip and hand1.

  • A significant portion of elderly adults do not develop osteoarthritis indicating that the disease is not an inevitable consequence of aging1.


  • After the age of 50, women are more likely than men to show signs of osteoarthritis of the knee and hand but hip osteoarthritis seems to occur at the same rate in men as in women1.
  • Men under the age of 50 tend to have a higher incidence of osteoarthritis than woman, however this reverses when comparing men and woman over the age of 502.

Family history of osteoarthritis

  • Studies show that, for women, a familial history of hand, hip or knee osteoarthritis makes it more likely to develop the disease. Men are more likely to develop osteoarthritis of the hip with positive family history1.


  • Review of literature demonstrates that obese patients with osteoarthritis are more likely to have worsening of the disease than non-obese patients3.
  • Losing just 5kg of bodyweight has shown to reduce osteoarthritis symptoms by 50%2.


  • Studies demonstrate that menopause is a risk factor for progression of osteoarthritis. It is unclear if this is related to a drop in estrogen levels with menopause, and research in this area is still ongoing1.

Muscle weakness around the joint

  • There is still debate as to whether muscle weakness causes osteoarthritis or whether osteoarthritis causes muscle weakness4.
  • Long-term engagement in high-impact sports or occupations that require heavy physical work
  • Former elite runners, soccer players and American football players have a higher risk for developing osteoarthritis of the hip or knee1.
  • People whose occupation requires kneeling and or squatting have higher incidence of osteoarthritis3.

Acute joint injuries

  • Persons with previous acute joint injuries have a much higher risk of later developing osteoarthritis of the injured joint, especially if they have osteoarthritis in another joint1.

Congenital (from birth) joint deformity

  • An abnormally formed joint can cause osteoarthritis because the joint does not come together properly, and, over time, this malalignment causes stress on the joint leading to a breakdown of the joint tissue1.

Other joint disease

  • People with other types of joint disease such as gout or rheumatoid arthritis can develop osteoarthritis as a result of damage from the pre-existing  joint disease.


1. Nevitt  M, (2006) Risk factors for knee, hip and hand osteoarthritis.  In: Arden N, Cooper C (eds) Osteoarthritis Handbook, Taylor & Francis, London, pp 23-48
2. Ruddy S, Harris ED, Sledge CB, Sergent JS, Budd RC, (2000) Kelley's Textbook of Rheumatology, 6th ed. Saunders, Philidelphia
3. Arden N, Cooper C (2006) Osteoarthritis: epidemiology.  In:  Arden N, Cooper C (eds) Osteoarthritis Handbook, Taylor & Francis, London,  pp 1-22
4. Haq I, Murphy E, Darce J (2003) Osteoarthritis. Postgrad Med 79:377-383