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Arch Osteoporos. 2013;8:117. doi: 10.1007/s11657-012-0117-9. Epub 2013 Jan 8.

Awareness of osteoporosis, risk and protective factors and own diagnostic status: a cross-sectional study.

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Department of Geriatric Medicine, Beaumont Hospital, Beaumont, Dublin 11, Ireland.


We conducted a cross-sectional study of the understanding on osteoporosis amongst community-dwelling geriatric patients. Patient understanding on the pathology, risk factors and its complications was suboptimal, but better amongst women and persons with diagnosed osteoporosis. Improving patient osteoporosis education may lead to improved compliance with preventive and therapeutic measures.


Osteoporosis is often preventable and treatable. Establishing levels of understanding in an Irish population will help inform future public and patient education.


We conducted a cross-sectional survey of 126 randomly selected geriatric day hospital patients, interviewing next of kin where abbreviated mental test score was <6. Questions assessed awareness of (1) basic pathology, (2) predisposing and protective factors, (3) complications and (4) personal osteoporosis status and treatment.


Participants included 103 patients and 23 carers; 78.6 % were female; patients' mean age was 81.6 years. Of the patients surveyed, 87.3 % had heard of osteoporosis; 56.1 % knew affected bone; and 30.2 % were cognisant of architectural change. About 65.9 % reported that a doctor had never discussed the condition; 92.9 % correctly identified whether diagnosed with osteoporosis, and >96 % correctly identified their treatment status. Rates of risk factor identification were as follows: 88.9 % for ageing, 83.8 % female gender, 65.1 % smoking, 62.4 % low BMI and 51.6 % alcohol excess; <10 % identified other risk factors. Awareness of complications ranged from 91.3 % for fractures to 44.4 % for height loss. Awareness of protective factors (calcium/vitamin D-rich food, medication and exercise) was >85 % for each. More women had heard of osteoporosis (p = 0.02), knew affected bone (p = 0.005) and recognised gender as a risk factor (p = 0.015) and pain (p = 0.05) or kyphosis (p = 0.014) as complications. Osteoporotic patients (N = 38) were more likely to know it as affected bone (p = 0.006). Amongst patients surveyed [abbreviated mental test score (AMTS) 6-10], AMTS score did not predict understanding. Age did not predict understanding, nor were next of kin more likely to understand osteoporosis than patients.


There is scope for enhancing patient osteoporosis education, which may improve compliance with preventive and therapeutic measures.

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