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Chartbook on Women and Disability

Section 6: Women, disability and aging

6.5. How many women are at risk of disability related to osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis (very low bone density) affects women 2 to 3 times more often than men. Currently, 26 million American women are at risk for bone fractures as a result of osteoporosis (Gabriel, 1996). As illustrated below, the prevalence of osteoporosis in women increases sharply with age. Based on extrapolation from an age-stratified sample of women in Rochester, MN, it is estimated that 30% of post-menopausal White women in the United States have osteoporosis of the spine, hip, or arm. Women 80 and over have an estimated prevalence rate of 70%, more than 4 times the rate for women in their 50's (Melton, 1997). Asian-American and White women have comparable prevalence rates; African-American women are 2 to 3 times less likely to suffer osteoporotic fractures.

It is estimated that one-third of women will suffer hip fractures in their late 70's to early 80's. At least 19% of hip fracture patients require long-term nursing care. As the population ages, the adverse effects of osteoporosis are also likely to increase; the current rate of approximately 250,000 hip fractures per year is expected to triple by the year 2040 (Bockman, 1997).

In the National Study of Women with Physical Disabilities, the Center for Research on Women with Disabilities found that younger women with disabilities had seven times the rate of osteoporosis as women without disabilities. This may be due to lower rates of weight-bearing exercise or other factors not yet understood (Nosek, Howland, & Rintal, et al., 1997).

Osteoporosis affects more than two-thirds of women 80 years and over.

Vertical bar chart. Go to Data Table for Figure 30 for the data values shown in this chart.

Figure 30: Percentage of women over 50 with osteoporosis, by age group

Data Table for Figure 30

Sources: Bockman (1997); Melton (1997).

Surveys: Rochester Epidemiology Project, multiple years

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