Osteoporosis causes bones to become weak, and increase the likelihood of fracture.

This report updates the key figures and facts about osteoporosis in Australia.

How prevalent is osteoporosis in Australia?

  • An estimated 692,000 Australians (3.4% of the total population) had doctordiagnosed cases of osteoporosis in 2007–08. Women accounted for the majority of cases (81.9%). The disease occurs mainly in people aged 55 years and over (84.0%).
  • Osteoporosis, a condition without overt symptoms, is known to be under-diagnosed.  While the extent of this is difficult to establish, the prevalence of doctor-diagnosed osteoporosis is almost certainly an underestimate.

Is osteoporosis more prevalent in some subpopulations than in others?

  • The diagnosis of osteoporosis was more prevalent among those who live in Major cities than in rural and remote locations.
  • In 2004–05, 0.74% of Indigenous males and 1.11% of Indigenous females reported having doctor-diagnosed cases of osteoporosis. The age-standardised prevalence rates show that osteoporosis was more common among Indigenous males (1.8 times) but less common among Indigenous females (0.5 times) than their non-Indigenous counterparts.

Where are the common sites of osteoporotic fractures?

  • Hip and pelvis (40.5%) and wrist and forearm (17.1%) were the most common sites of minimal trauma fractures in 2007–08.

How has the rate of osteoporotic hip fracture changed over time?

  • The rate of hospital separation for minimal trauma hip fracture decreased between 1998–99 and 2007–08, a trend consistent with reports from North America and Scandinavia.

How is osteoporosis managed in primary care settings and hospitals?

  • Osteoporosis was managed at a rate of one in 100 GP–patient encounters in 2007–08, at a rate double that of 1998–99. In these encounters, prescription, advice and supply of medications were the mainstays. In hospital settings, surgical procedures as well as allied health services were provided to treat fractures.

Does osteoporosis cause death?

  • Osteoporosis usually does not cause death. Osteoporotic fractures, however, can lead to premature deaths among the elderly. In 2007, osteoporosis was listed as the underlying cause of 240 deaths in Australia.

How much is spent on osteoporosis management?

  • In 2004–05, the total direct health expenditure for osteoporosis was $304 million. Over 70% of this was spent to cover the cost of pharmaceutical medicines ($215 million). Surgical and non-surgical procedures to treat fractures in hospitals constitute another large component of this outlay ($35 million, 11.5%).

Can osteoporosis be prevented?

  • Osteoporosis is a largely preventable condition. Changes in certain lifestyle factors, management of established osteoporosis through anti-resorptive therapy, and falls prevention programs can help reduce the impact of osteoporosis in Australia.