Pervasive effects of musculoskeletal conditions

3 minute read

From mental health to finances, most individuals with these conditions face daily invisible battles.

The 2020 National Consumer Survey, undertaken by Musculoskeletal Australia (MSK), provides new insight into the day-to-day impacts of the condition.

Marking the largest and most comprehensive consumer-driven survey aimed at understanding the effects of musculoskeletal conditions, the survey received responses from 3,500 people across various demographics. 

Providing a broad sample of the seven million Australians who live with musculoskeletal conditions like lupus, fibromyalgia and osteoarthritis, the results showed that the condition can negatively affect almost every aspect of an individual’s life. 

One of the most significant findings was that 93% of individuals felt their lives had been negatively affected, with around half of the respondents reporting they experienced pain every day, and around half noting that the condition had impacted their enjoyment of life in general.

The survey indicated that many social impacts faced by people with musculoskeletal conditions were underpinned by mental health issues. Half of the respondents reported the condition had a significant impact on their mental health, with relationships flagged as a major driving factor for this.

Around 66% of people surveyed noted their condition had an impact on family and personal relationships, and almost half of the respondents felt like they were not able to make firm social commitments due to pain.

A large number of respondents also reported that they felt isolated due to mobility barriers: 30% indicated that their condition affects their ability to drive and 21% said their ability to use public transport, including plane travel, was affected.

One of the most important findings from the survey showed that over half of respondents reported issues with finding affordable treatment options and services, with 46% of people noting the need for more government support for ongoing treatment. 

Of the 65% of people who had experienced financial stress, half listed the cost of specialist appointments as the root of this issue. Almost half noted that allied health appointments also caused financial stressors. 

MSK says the results will forge a consumer-driven response that aims to create important enhancements and changes to healthcare and support services for people living with musculoskeletal conditions.

Speaking to the importance of the survey, Rob Anderson, CEO of MSK, said it was imperative to understand the personal impacts that Australians with the conditions faced daily. 

“This report reveals why so many [individuals with musculoskeletal conditions] are crying out for compassion, for understanding, for change, and the survey data now provides us with the opportunity to offer more support for the unwanted and difficult conditions that have intruded into people’s lives.”

Making the invisible visible, Musculoskeletal Australia, 2020

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