Musculoskeletal disorders cost taxpayers an estimated $5.57 billion a year and the number of sufferers is set to balloon over the next eight years, says a report into the economic cost of the debilitating diseases.
More than 650,000 New Zealanders over the age of 15 are expected to be living with at least one type of arthritis by 2020, the Fit for Work report states.
In 2010, 14.5 per cent of sickness benefit claims and 11.7 per cent of invalid benefit claims were for musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs).
There are more than 170 different types of MSD, including arthritis.
They are the single greatest cause of disability in New Zealand, with one in six people affected.
As the Western Bay's ageing population grows, so does the number of people affected locally. Chris Polaczuk, programme manager for the Accident Compensation Corporation's musculoskeletal injury prevention programme, said MSDs in the workplace cost ACC more than $140 million annually.
Arthritis New Zealand chief executive Sandra Kirby said the report was well timed, due to recent discussions about keeping people in work and encouraging those on benefits to return to the workforce.
"It is a holistic look into a significant national health issue with a wider reaching impact on society."
Ms Kirby said the report illustrated a need to focus on early detection of MSDs to improve outcomes. "The best outcomes will have people with arthritis and other MSDs being able to stay in work or have the earliest possible return to work." Kiri Gillespie