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BACKGROUND: Osteoporosis constitutes a major public health problem, through its association with age-related fractures, particularly of the hip, vertebrae, distal forearm, and humerus. Over recent decades, it has evolved from being viewed as an inevitable consequence of ageing, to being recognised as a serious and eminently treatable disease. MATERIALS AND METHODS: In this article, we review the literature pertaining to the epidemiology of osteoporosis, associated health burden, approaches to risk assessment and treatment. RESULTS: Although there is some evidence that fracture incidence has reached a plateau, or even started to decline, in the developed world, an ageing population and adoption of westernised lifestyles in transitioning populations is leading to an increasing burden of osteoporosis across the world. Whilst the clinical definition of osteoporosis has been based solely on bone mineral density, the prediction of fracture at the individual level has been improved by consideration of clinical risk factors in tools such as FRAX®, derived from a greater understanding of the epidemiology of osteoporosis. Such advances in approaches to primary and secondary prevention of fractures, coupled with elucidation of the underlying biology, and the development of a range of highly effective antiosteoporosis medications, have enabled a step change in our ability to prevent osteoporosis-related fractures. However, there remains a substantial disparity between the number of individuals at high fracture risk and number treated globally. CONCLUSION: Urgent work is needed at the level of health care systems, national and international policy, and in communication with patients and public, to ensure that all patients who should receive treatment for osteoporosis actually do so.

Original publication




Journal article


J endocrinol invest

Publication Date



Epidemiology, FRAX, Fracture, Osteoporosis, Prevention, Risk