Open Access Study protocol

European project on osteoarthritis: design of a six-cohort study on the personal and societal burden of osteoarthritis in an older European population

Suzan van der Pas1*, Maria Victoria Castell2, Cyrus Cooper3, Michael Denkinger4, Elaine M Dennison3, Mark H Edwards3, Florian Herbolsheimer4, Federica Limongi5, Paul Lips1, Stefania Maggi5, Hans Nasell6, Thorsten Nikolaus4, Angel Otero2, Nancy L Pedersen7, Richard Peter4, Mercedes Sanchez-Martinez2, Laura A Schaap1, Sabina Zambon8, Natasja M van Schoor1 and Dorly JH Deeg1

Author affiliations

1 Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, EMGO Institute for Health and Care Research, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, the Netherlands

2 Department of Preventive Medicine and Public Health, Unit of Primary Care and Family Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Universidad Autonoma de Madrid, Madrid, Spain

3 MRC Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit, University of Southampton, Southampton General Hospital, Southampton, United Kingdom

4 Bethesda Geriatric Clinic, University of Ulm, Ulm, Germany

5 Department of Medical and Surgical Sciences, University of Padova, and National Research Council (CNR), Aging Branch, Institute of Neuroscience, Padova, Italy

6 Department of Clinical Science and Education, Södersjukhuset, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden

7 Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden

8 Department of Medicine, University of Padova, National Research Council, Aging Branch, Institute of Neuroscience, Padova, Italy

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Citation and License

BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders 2013, 14:138  doi:10.1186/1471-2474-14-138

Published: 18 April 2013



Osteoarthritis (OA), the most common form of arthritis, is a major contributor to functional impairment and loss of independence in older persons. The European Project on OSteoArthritis (EPOSA) is a collaborative study involving six European cohort studies on ageing. This project focuses on the personal and societal burden and its determinants of osteoarthritis. This paper describes the design of the project, and presents some descriptive analyses on selected variables across countries.


EPOSA is an observational study including pre-harmonized data from European cohort studies (Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom) on older community-dwelling persons aged 65 to 85 years. In total, 2942 persons were included in the baseline study with a mean age of 74.2 years (SD 5.1), just over half were women (51,9%). The baseline assessment was conducted by a face-to-face interview followed by a clinical examination. Measures included physical, cognitive, psychological and social functioning, lifestyle behaviour, physical environment, wellbeing and care utilisation. The clinical examination included anthropometry, muscle strength, physical performance and OA exam. A follow-up assessment was performed 12–18 months after baseline.


The EPOSA study is the first population-based study including a clinical examination of OA, using pre-harmonized data across European countries. The EPOSA study provides a unique opportunity to study the determinants and consequences of OA in general populations of older persons, including both care-seeking and non care-seeking persons.