Impact of 'silent' osteoporosis on Australians

At least 600,000 Australians are affected by osteoporosis, a disease that causes bones to become fragile and weak and increasing the risk of fracture, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare and Osteoporosis Australia.

A 'silent' disease, osteoporosis usually shows no signs or symptoms, and so often goes undiagnosed until a fracture occurs.

Osteoporosis affects mostly women and men of middle-age and older.

According to the report, A picture of osteoporosis in Australia, launched today by Minister for Ageing, Justine Elliott, at the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Brisbane, 1 in 2 women and 1 in 4 men over the age of 60 will suffer an osteoporotic fracture in their lifetime.

'These fractures may lead to chronic pain, activity restrictions, loss of independence and, sometimes, death,' said Dr Kuldeep Bhatia, Head of the AIHW's National Centre for Monitoring Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Conditions.

Management of osteoporosis includes medication, exercise, physical therapy and healthy eating. About 43% of Australians with osteoporosis take pharmaceuticals and 40% use vitamin/mineral supplements (such as calcium and Vitamin D).

According to Dr Emma Duncan, staff specialist in endocrinology at the Princess Alexandra Hospital, osteoporotic fractures occur most commonly in the hip, spine and wrist.

Medical Director of Osteoporosis Australia, Professor Peter Ebeling, said osteoporosis was largely preventable, with key preventive actions being 'a healthy diet, adequate vitamin D levels, regular exercise and not smoking'.

'These actions can also help people with osteoporosis to reduce their risk of fracture,' he said.

This is the second in a series of booklets about musculoskeletal diseases, and was prepared jointly by the AIHW, Osteoporosis Australia, and the Department of Health and Ageing. The osteoporosis booklet combines descriptive and statistical information to explain:

  • what osteoporosis is, and how many Australians have it
  • how and where it affects the body
  • who is at risk
  • the financial and health impacts, and
  • how it can be prevented.

Osteoporosis Australia provides services and osteoporosis information to the community and health professionals, aiming to improve awareness and reduce fractures.

Monday 4 August 2008

Further information: Dr Kuldeep Bhatia, AIHW, 02 6244 1144; 0417 880 300 or Prof. Peter Ebeling, Osteoporosis Australia, 1800 242 141

For media copies of the report: Publications Officer, AIHW, tel. 61 2 6244 1032.