Impact of Osteoporosis

Why should you be concerned about osteoporosis?

Fractures due to osteoporosis have a serious impact on a person’s health, happiness and quality of life. They can result in chronic pain, long-term disability and death. 

We cannot afford to ignore the problem. At least one in three women and one in five men over the age of fifty around the world will suffer an osteoporotic fracture.

As our life expectancy increases, so too does the proportion of the population suffering osteoporotic fractures. Thhis fracture ‘epidemic’ is a serious challenge for health care authorities, for social institutions and ultimately for the people and families.

Despite its serious impact, the disease remains under diagnosed and under treated. Around 80% of people at high risk and who have already had at least one osteoporotic fracture are not identified or treated.

The impact of hip fractures

Hip fractures result in pain, reduced mobility, disability, and an increasing degree of dependence.

Hip fractures are one of the main reasons why older people lose their independence. After a hip fracture 10-20% of patients who used to live in the community will require long term nursing care.

Almost one in five people die in the first year after suffering a hip fracture, and greater risk of dying may continue for at least five years afterwards.

People who survive a hip fracture often suffer loss of physical function and independence.  40% are unable to walk independently and 60% still require assistance a year later. 33% are totally dependent or in a nursing home in the year following a hip fracture.

While in Western countries the outcome of hip fractures is severe, the outcome in other parts of the world may be even more devastating. In countries where many people have little access to healthcare, patients with hip fractures may never receive surgery, leading to permanent disability or death.

The impact of vertebral fractures (spinal compression fractures)

Vertebral fractures can lead to back pain, loss of height, deformity, immobility, increased number of bed days, and even reduced pulmonary function.

Vertebral fractures significantly affect the ability of people to carry out activities of daily living. Besides their impact on quality of life, they can result in loss of self-esteem, distorted body image and depression. 

After hospitalization for a vertebral fracture, there is a greatly increased risk of requiring hospitalization for a further fracture in the years following initial hospitalization.

For further information see  The Breaking Spine

The overall socioeconomic impact of fragility fractures

Beyond the personal impact on millions of people around the world, fractures caused by osteoporosis represent a major and growing socioeconomic burden, causing:

  • Huge direct costs for medical, hospital and surgical care.
  • Rising indirect costs that result when patients lose their independence and require nursing care either at home or in institutions.
  • Loss of work days and income among adults who are still active in the work place.

Burden of Disability

In many countries, fractures caused by osteoporosis are responsible for more days of hospitalization among women over 45 years of age than most other diseases. The graph below, based on European and worldwide studies, shows the burden of the disease compared to other disease states, using DALY as a measure.

DALY stands for disability-adjusted life year (DALY). It is a measure of overall disease burden expressed as the number of years lost due to ill-health, disability or early death.

Burden of disability graph










Burden of hospitalized fractures vs other diseases graph