Osteoporosis risk underestimated by women in Japan

senior japanese women
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Study shows that in Japan, as elsewhere in Asia, continued efforts are needed to raise awareness of osteoporosis risk and available preventive measures.

A new Japanese study shows that, despite being within the population group at highest risk of osteoporosis, most postmenopausal women in Japan do not feel they are personally at risk of osteoporosis. Just as worrying is that many of those who do feel at risk don't necessarily take steps to protect themselves against bone loss and future fractures.

The study included data for 16,801 women aged 50 years and older (without self-reported diagnosis of osteoporosis) from the annual Japanese National health and Wellness Surveys -NHWS. 

The results showed:

  • Only 11% indicated that they were taking steps to prevent developing osteoporosis in the future
  • Only 15% felt they were at risk of developing osteoporosis in the future
  • Perception of risk was associated with a family history of osteoporosis, but few other risk factors
  • Almost half (49%) indicated that they had never had a bone mineral density (BMD) scan
  • Although 11% indicated that they had fractured a bone since age 50, approximately one in three of these women indicated that they had never had a BMD scan.

Overall, the study showed that there was a large discrepancy between the percentage who feel they are at risk, compared to epidemiological studies that indicate that as many as one quarter of women of all ages in Japan have osteoporosis, with prevalence rising sharply after age 50. Of those with a previous fracture – which is one of the most important predictors of future fracture - a significant number (approximately one in three) were not assessed for osteoporosis through BMD testing.

As elsewhere in Asia, osteoporosis is thought to be vastly underdiagnosed and undertreated, and this is of all the more concern in Japan considering the high personal, social and economic cost of osteoporotic fractures. The results of this study firmly point to the need for more public education to raise awareness of risk factors and the preventive measures available.

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