Open Access Research article

Self-perceived weather sensitivity and joint pain in older people with osteoarthritis in six European countries: results from the European Project on OSteoArthritis (EPOSA)

Erik J Timmermans1*, Suzan van der Pas1, Laura A Schaap1, Mercedes Sánchez-Martínez2, Sabina Zambon34, Richard Peter5, Nancy L Pedersen6, Elaine M Dennison7, Michael Denkinger8, Maria Victoria Castell2, Paola Siviero4, Florian Herbolsheimer5, Mark H Edwards7, Ángel Otero2 and Dorly JH Deeg1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, EMGO+ Institute for Health and Care Research, VU University Medical Center, Van der Boechorststraat 7, 1081 BT, 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, Arzobispo Morcillo 4, 28029 Madrid, Spain

3 Department of Medicine, University of Padova, Via 8 Febbraio 2, 35122 Padova, Italy

4 National Research Council, Aging Branch, Institute of Neuroscience, Via Giustiniani 2, 35128 Padova, Italy

5 Institute of the History, Philosophy and Ethics of Medicine, University of Ulm, Frauensteige 6, 89075 Ulm, Germany

6 Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Karolinska Institutet, P.O.Box 281, Nobels väg 12A, SE-171 77 Stockholm, Sweden

7 MRC Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit, University of Southampton, Southampton General Hospital, Tremona Road, Southampton SO16 6YD, United Kingdom

8 Bethesda Geriatric Clinic, University of Ulm, Zollernring 26, 89073 Ulm, Germany

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BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders 2014, 15:66  doi:10.1186/1471-2474-15-66

Published: 5 March 2014



People with osteoarthritis (OA) frequently report that their joint pain is influenced by weather conditions. This study aimed to examine whether there are differences in perceived joint pain between older people with OA who reported to be weather-sensitive versus those who did not in six European countries with different climates and to identify characteristics of older persons with OA that are most predictive of perceived weather sensitivity.


Baseline data from the European Project on OSteoArthritis (EPOSA) were used. ACR classification criteria were used to determine OA. Participants with OA were asked about their perception of weather as influencing their pain. Using a two-week follow-up pain calendar, average self-reported joint pain was assessed (range: 0 (no pain)-10 (greatest pain intensity)). Linear regression analyses, logistic regression analyses and an independent t-test were used. Analyses were adjusted for several confounders.


The majority of participants with OA (67.2%) perceived the weather as affecting their pain. Weather-sensitive participants reported more pain than non-weather-sensitive participants (M = 4.1, SD = 2.4 versus M = 3.1, SD = 2.4; p < 0.001). After adjusting for several confounding factors, the association between self-perceived weather sensitivity and joint pain remained present (B = 0.37, p = 0.03). Logistic regression analyses revealed that women and more anxious people were more likely to report weather sensitivity. Older people with OA from Southern Europe were more likely to indicate themselves as weather-sensitive persons than those from Northern Europe.


Weather (in)stability may have a greater impact on joint structures and pain perception in people from Southern Europe. The results emphasize the importance of considering weather sensitivity in daily life of older people with OA and may help to identify weather-sensitive older people with OA.

Europe; Joint pain; Older people; Osteoarthritis; Weather sensitivity