Osteoporosis or Low Bone Mass in Older Adults: United States, 2017–2018

DB405_Cover1Questions for Neda Sarafrazi, Health Statistician and Lead Author of “Osteoporosis or Low Bone Mass in Older Adults: United States, 2017-2018.”

Q: Why did you decide to do a report on osteoporosis among older U.S. adults?

NS: Osteoporosis is the most common bone disease characterized by weakening of bone tissue, bone structure and strength and may lead to increased risk of fractures. Fractures are common among aging individuals. There are an estimated two million osteoporotic fractures each year in the United States.  Hip fractures are especially important and considered a major public health concern due to high morbidity, mortality and medical expenses and the toll on nation’s economy. 

Recent analysis of Medicare data suggests that the decline in hip fracture incidence among older US adults may have plateaued in 2012-2015.

Monitoring the prevalence of osteoporosis and low bone mass may inform public health programs that focus on reducing or preventing of osteoporosis and its consequences.

Healthy People 2020 has a goal of 5.3% or less for the prevalence of osteoporosis at the femur neck for adults aged 50 and over. In the United States, the prevalence of osteoporosis among adults aged 50 and over at the femur neck only was 6.3% and has not met the 2020 goal.


Q: Was there a specific finding in the data that surprised you from this report?

NS: I was hoping to see no change or a significant reduction in the prevalence of osteoporosis, but the prevalence is still significantly higher compare to a decade ago.


Q: Do you have trend data that goes further back than 2007?

NS: Yes, NHANES has been monitoring osteoporosis prevalence in U.S. since 1988 (NHANES III). 


Q: Do you have a 2017-2018 estimate of exactly how many Americans aged 50 and over have osteoporosis and low bone mass?

NS: In the United States, there are 13.4 million people aged 50 years and over with osteoporosis (11.2 million women and 2.2 million men).

In the United States, there are 47.6 million people aged 50 years and over with low bone mass (30.7 million women and 16.9 million men).


Q: What is the take home message for this report?

NS: We had a success story in diagnosis and treatment of osteoporosis in late 1990s and early 2000s. There was a decrease in annual incidence of hip fracture in US. Since 2012 this decline has been plateaued.   

Public health programs should focus on prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of osteoporosis and its consequences.

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