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Rheumatic complaints in Tokelau

I. Migrants resident in New Zealand The Tokelau Island migrant study


The three Tokelau atolls are 8 degrees south of the equator. In 1966 the islands were involved in a severe hurricane which drew attention to overcrowding and led to resettlement of more than half the population in New Zealand. One thousand three hundred and eighty one migrants over 15 years old were examined in New Zealand in 1980 and 1981 for rheumatic complaints as part of a continuing assessment. Clinical criteria for osteoarthritis (COA), including crepitus in any joint and in the knee, showed an increase in prevalence with age and weight in both sexes. Partial correlation coefficient analysis showed an association of the number of affected joints or the severity of knee COA (COAK) with both age and weight. Stepwise regression showed that age was the best predictor of both COA and COAK scores. Weight had predictive value only for COAK and only in women. Using the tracking method, previous high and/or increasing weight was related to COAK observed at this assessment. Heberden nodes increased with age and were more prevalent in women but were not associated with weight. Low back, dorsal and neck pain showed no association with age or sex. Low back pain was associated with weight. Joint pain following injury occurred in 15.4% of men. Gout, more common in men, was the only frequent inflammatory arthritis found. Two definite cases of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) were identified and four had criteria 1 and 2 for the New York criteria.

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Wigley, R.D., Prior, I.A.M., Salmond, C. et al. Rheumatic complaints in Tokelau. Rheumatol Int 7, 53–59 (1987).

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Key words

  • Tokelau
  • Migrants
  • Rheumatism
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Epidemiology