Background The effect of joint health on quality of life in middle-aged and older women is becoming more widely recognized with the aging of the world’s population. However, the association of long-term breastfeeding with joint pain and knee osteoarthritis has not been fully examined. The aim of this study was to determine the association of long-term breastfeeding with joint pain and knee osteoarthritis in middle-aged Korean women.
Methods A cross-sectional study was conducted among 3,454 women aged ≥50 years who underwent knee radiography and answered a questionnaire on breastfeeding and joint pain for the 5 th Korean National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (2010–2011). After adjusting for confounding sociodemographic, medical history, and obstetric and gynecologic variables, logistic regression analysis was conducted to analyze the incidence of joint pain and knee osteoarthritis according to breastfeeding and its duration. Among the 3,454 participants, 298 had not breastfed and 1,042, 815, and 1,299 had breastfed for 1–24, 25–48, and ≥49 months, respectively. Of all participants, 1,731 had joint pain and 739 were diagnosed with knee osteoarthritis after radiography.
Results The odds ratio (OR) for joint pain among women who breastfed was 1.493 times higher than that among women who did not (p=0.044). As breastfeeding duration increased, the OR of joint pain incidence also increased (p for trend; p=0.002). For knee osteoarthritis, the OR was significantly different between the 25–48 and ≥49 months groups (2.299 [p=0.03] and 2.166 [p=0.047], respectively). Reanalysis after selecting only participants aged ≥60 years showed that the prevalence of joint pain and knee osteoarthritis was more positively correlated with extended breastfeeding duration (joint pain, p for trend; p=0.005) (knee osteoarthritis, p for trend; p=0.012).
Conclusions Long-term feeding of more than 25 months was associated with an increased prevalence of arthralgia and degenerative arthritis after menopause in Korean elderly women.