Osteoarthritis (OA) has been shown to be associated with decreased physical function, which may impact upon a person's self-rated health (SRH). Only a few studies have examined the association between OA and SRH in the general population, but to date none have used a clinical definition of OA. The objectives are: (1) To examine the cross-sectional association between clinical OA and fair-to-poor SRH in the general population; (2) To examine whether this association differs between countries; (3) To examine whether physical function is a mediator in the association between clinical OA and SRH.
Baseline data of the European Project on OSteoArthritis (EPOSA) were used, which includes pre-harmonized data from six European cohort studies (n = 2709). Clinical OA was defined according to the American College of Rheumatology criteria. SRH was assessed using one question: How is your health in general? Physical function was assessed using the Western Ontario and McMaster Universities OA Index and Australian/Canadian OA Hand Index.
The prevalence of fair-to-poor SRH ranged from 19.8 % in the United Kingdom to 63.5 % in Italy. Although country differences in the strength of the associations were observed, clinical OA of the hip, knee and hand were significantly associated with fair-to-poor SRH in five out of six European countries. In most countries and at most sites, the association between clinical OA and fair-to-poor SRH was partly or fully mediated by physical function.
Clinical OA at different sites was related to fair-to-poor SRH in the general population. Most associations were (partly) mediated by physical functioning, indicating that deteriorating physical function in patients with OA should be a point of attention in patient care.