Risk factors

Osteoporosis affects women and men. Over 1 million people in Australia have osteoporosis.

More information on risk factors:

Both men and women may have certain ‘risk factors’ that can make them more likely to develop osteoporosis. People should discuss risk factors with their doctor, and anyone over 50 with risk factors may require a bone density scan.

Women are at a greater risk of developing osteoporosis because of the rapid decline in oestrogen levels during menopause. When oestrogen levels decrease, bones lose calcium and other minerals at a much faster rate. As a result a bone loss of approximately 2% per year occurs for several years after menopause.

Men also lose bone as they age, however testosterone levels in men decline more gradually so their bone mass remains adequate till later in life.

Your family history

Bone health can be strongly inherited so consider your family history of osteoporosis. It is important to note if anyone in your family (particularly parents or siblings) has ever been diagnosed with osteoporosis, broken a bone from a minor fall or rapidly lost height. These can indicate low bone density.

Your calcium and vitamin D levels

  • Low calcium intake - adults require 1,000 mg per day (preferably through diet) which increases to 1,300 mg per day for women over 50 and men over 70
  • Low vitamin D levels - a lack of sun exposure can mean you are not getting enough vitamin D which your body needs to absorb calcium

Your medical history

Certain conditions and medications can impact on your bone health.

  • Corticosteroids - commonly used for asthma, rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory conditions
  • Low hormone levels - in women: early menopause; in men: low testosterone
  • Thyroid conditions - over active thyroid or parathyroid
  • Conditions leading to malabsorption eg: coeliac disease, inflammatory bowel disease
  • Some chronic diseases eg: rheumatoid arthritis, chronic liver or kidney disease
  • Some medicines for breast cancer, prostate cancer, epilepsy and some antidepressants 

Lifestyle factors

  • Low levels of physical activity
  • Smoking
  • Excessive alcohol intake
  • Weight - thin body build or excessive weight (recent studies suggest that hormones associated with obesity may impact bones)

Author: Osteoporosis Australia Medical & Scientific Advisory Committee
Last updated: 02/23/2017 - 10:53