Osteoporosis is the most common underlying cause of fractures in the elderly, but it is not frequently diagnosed or treated, even among individuals who have already suffered a fracture. An estimated 10 million Americans now have osteoporosis, while another 34 million have low bone mass and are at risk for developing osteoporosis; 80 percent of them are women. Each year more than 1.5 million people suffer a bone fracture related to osteoporosis, with the most common breaks in the wrist, spine, and hip. Fractures can have devastating consequences. For example, hip fractures are associated with an increased risk of mortality, and nearly 1 in 5 hip fracture patients ends up in a nursing home within a year. Direct care for osteoporotic fractures costs $18 billion yearly.1

In 2003–2004, women aged 18 years and older were more likely than men to report having been told by a health professional that they have osteoporosis (10.0 versus 1.7 percent, respectively). The rate of osteoporosis among women varied significantly with race and ethnicity. Non-Hispanic White women were most likely to have osteoporosis (12.6 percent), compared to 3.2 percent of non-Hispanic Black women and 3.5 percent of Hispanic women.

In 2005 there were 215,000 hospital discharges due to hip fractures among women aged 18 and older, a rate of 18.8 per 10,000 women. Rates of hospital discharges due to hip fractures varied by age. Women aged 75 and older had 149.4 discharges per 10,000 women, compared to 29.6 discharges per 10,000 women aged 65–74 years. Osteoporosis may be prevented and treated by getting the recommended amounts of calcium, vitamin D, and regular weight-bearing physical activity (i.e. walking), and by taking prescription medication when appropriate. Bone density tests are recommended for women over 65 years and for any man or woman who suffers a fracture after age 50. Treatment for osteoporosis has been shown to reduce the risk of subsequent fractures by 30–65 percent.ibid

1 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Bone Health and Osteoporosis: A Report of the Surgeon General. Rockville, MD: Office of the Surgeon General; 2004.

Back to Top