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OBJECTIVE: With adults working to older ages, occupation is an important, yet less modifiable domain of physical activity to consider in the risk of knee osteoarthritis (OA). This study aimed to investigate the association between predominant lifetime occupation and prevalent knee OA. DESIGN: Participant-level data were used from five international community-based cohorts: Johnston County Osteoarthritis Project, the Hertfordshire Cohort Study, the Multicenter Osteoarthritis Study, the Tasmanian Cohort Study and Framingham Osteoarthritis Study. Self-reported predominant occupation was categorized into sedentary, light, light manual and heavy manual levels. Cross-sectional associations between predominant lifetime occupation and knee OA outcomes including prevalence of radiographic knee OA (RKOA), symptomatic RKOA and knee pain, were assessed using logistic regression, accounting for cohort clustering. RESULTS: Data for 7391 participants were included. 24.7% reported sedentary lifetime occupation, 30.0% light, 35.9% light manual and 9.4% heavy manual. 43.3% presented with RKOA, 52.1% with knee pain and 29.0% with symptomatic RKOA. There was over a two-fold increase in the odds of having RKOA, knee pain and symptomatic RKOA in those whose with heavy manual compared to sedentary occupations ((odds ratio (OR): 2.14; 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.79, 2.58), (OR: 2.19; 95% CI: 1.78, 2.70), (OR: 2.41; 95% CI: 1.94, 2.99) respectively). CONCLUSION: This large international multi-cohort study demonstrated an association of heavy manual work with RKOA, symptomatic RKOA and knee pain. Measures that protect workers and are designed to reduce heavy manual related activities remain a priority to reduce the risk of knee OA.

Original publication




Journal article


Osteoarthr cartil open

Publication Date





Epidemiology, Harmonization, Knee, Occupation, Osteoarthritis