Older Australians ‘risking untreated osteoporosis’

Older Australians are putting themselves at risk of potentially life-threatening untreated osteoporosis by foregoing bone density scans.

More than 40 per cent of Australians aged 70 and over have never had a bone density scan, also known as a DEXA scan, a survey reveals.

That’s despite two in three people over the age of 70 being at risk of fractures caused by osteoporosis, Monash University department of medicine head Peter Ebeling said.

One in four people die within 12 months of a hip fracture, prompting health officials’ concerns about untreated osteoporosis.

“For many patients a fracture is their first symptom,” Professor Ebeling said.

“Undiagnosed osteoporosis can limit patients’ independence and shorten lives, and we are fortunate in Australia to have DEXA scans for over 70-year-olds funded by Medicare, so I am urging all older Australians to have this scan.”

More than 70 per cent of older Australians with osteoporosis had the condition diagnosed through a bone density scan, but only 19 per cent of people aged 70 and over have had a scan in the past 12 months, the research showed.

In comparison, more than 80 per cent of Australians in the same age group had a flu vaccination in the past 12 months and three-quarters had an eye test.

The survey, commissioned by The Big O Campaign, gathered results from more than 1000 Australians who were either aged 70 or over, or were the children or carers of someone aged over 70.

The Big O ambassador Ita Buttrose urged older Australians to take their bone health seriously.

“I want to jolt older Australians out of their complacency and remind them that osteoporosis screening is the big opportunity to help enjoy life to the fullest – or risk a life of missed opportunity,” she said.

Osteoporosis is estimated to cost Australia $33.6 billion each decade.

The condition – which can be treated once diagnosed – weakens bones over time, making them more likely to break.

New guidelines soon to be released by the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners will encourage doctors to use fracture risk assessment tools to predict a patient’s risk of bone fractures.


Cassandra Morgan
(Australian Associated Press)


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