Study Recommends Osteoporosis Screening for Men over Age 50

On October 20th, we celebrated World Osteoporosis Day. U.S. consumers are likely to believe osteoporosis is a women’s issue. But, the National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF) is emphasizing that men, too, suffer from thinning bones as they age. And, a new survey shows men are often under-​treated for weakening bones.

One-​third of all hip fractures worldwide occur in men, with mortality rates as high as 37 percent in the first year following fracture, making men twice as likely as women to die after a hip fracture. Named the "weaker sex" in terms of death and disability caused by osteoporosis, the condition is often undiagnosed and untreated in men following fracture, making them vulnerable to early death and disability regardless of fracture type. In fact, a U.S. study found that men were 50% less likely to receive medical treatment to prevent a fracture than women.

"It's a myth that osteoporosis is only a woman's disease," said Amy Porter, CEO and Executive Director of NOF. And with doctors not addressing the topic of bone health with their male patients, men don't know they may be at risk for osteoporosis and are left vulnerable to broken bones and the pain and loss of independence that comes with osteoporosis."

According to the survey, men in the 50+ age group who had a health check-​up were 31% less likely than women of the same age to have any type of bone health assessment. The survey conducted by YouGov also revealed that:

  • 93% were unaware of how common osteoporotic fractures are in men: 68% underestimated the risk of fracture in men and an additional 25% said they "didn't know".
  • 65% of those age 50+, the age group most affected by osteoporosis, underestimated the risk of osteoporosis in men.
  • Only 7% of men, compared to 8% of women, age 50+ correctly estimated that osteoporotic fractures affect approximately one in five men worldwide.
  • An average of 70% of male respondents age 50+ who had visited a doctor for a routine physical check-​up said they had never received any type of bone health assessment, including: been asked about their bone health; had risk factors for osteoporosis discussed; questioned if they had previously broken a bone; or had been referred for a bone mineral density test. This compares to 39% of women age 50+.

Osteoporosis is a disease that causes bones to become weak and more likely to break. Both spine and hip fractures lead to higher death rates in men compared to women, yet fewer than 20% of men who fracture are being assessed or treated for osteoporosis. If healthcare professionals identified men with osteoporosis after their first bone break, it could dramatically reduce their risk of future fractures and early death.

"Estimates show that the lifetime risk of breaking a bone in men over age 50 is up to 27%, which is higher than the risk of developing prostate cancer. Despite the high prevalence, too few resources are being invested in fracture prevention and too few men with risk factors are being screened by bone density measurements," said Robert F. Gagel, M.D., president of the National Osteoporosis Foundation.

Orthopedic physicians may want to offer screening or other related services to their patients at risk for osteoporosis. Of consumers who plan to visit an orthopedic physician in the next year, 52.2% are male. And about 40% are over age 55. These consumers over-​index for their intent to invest in stocks and financial or retirement planning services in the next year. This behavior suggests these consumers are interested in taking care of themselves financially as well as physically. Marketers may be able reach them with magazine (print or online) campaigns. These audience members are more likely than average to have responded to magazine ads within the last 30 days.

AudienceSCAN data is available as part of a subscription to AdMall for Agencies. Media companies can access AudienceSCAN data through the Audience Intelligence Reports in AdMall.

Kathy Crosett
Kathy is the Vice President of Research for SalesFuel. She holds a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Vermont and oversees a staff of researchers, writers and content providers for SalesFuel. Previously, she was co-​owner of several small businesses in the health care services sector.