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J Bone Miner Res. 2002 Aug;17(8):1363-7.

Why is the age-standardized incidence of low-trauma fractures rising in many elderly populations?

Author information

1
The Bone Research Group, Accident & Trauma Research Centre, UKK Institute for Health Promotion Research, Tampere, Finland.

Abstract

Low-trauma fractures of elderly people are a major public health burden worldwide, and as the number and mean age of older adults in the population continue to increase, the number of fractures is also likely to increase. Epidemiologically, however, an additional concern is that, for unknown reasons, the age-standardized incidence (average individual risk) of fracture has also risen in many populations during the recent decades. Possible reasons for this rise include a birth cohort effect, deterioration in the average bone strength by time, and increased average risk of (serious) falls. Literature provides evidence that the rise is not due to a birth cohort effect, whereas no study shows whether bone fragility has increased during this relatively short period of time. This osteoporosis hypothesis could, however, be tested if researchers would now repeat the population measurements of bone mass and density that were made in the late 1980s and the 1990s. If such studies proved that women's and men's age-standardized mean values of bone mass and density have declined over time, the osteoporosis hypothesis would receive scientific support. The third explanation is based on the hypothesis that the number and/or severity of falls has risen in elderly populations during the recent decades. Although no study has directly tested this hypothesis, a great deal of indirect epidemiologic evidence supports this contention. For example, the age-standardized incidence of fall-induced severe head injuries, bruises and contusions, and joint distortions and dislocations has increased among elderly people similarly to the low-trauma fractures. The fall hypothesis could also be tested in the coming years because the 1990s saw many research teams reporting age- and sex-specific incidences of falling for elderly populations, and the same could be done now to provide data comparing the current incidence rates of falls with the earlier ones.

PMID:
12162489
DOI:
10.1359/jbmr.2002.17.8.1363
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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