Gender, primary language affect knowledge of osteoporosis

Researchers from Canada and the U.S. recently tested fracture patients' knowledge of osteoporosis, and what they found is that many men were less likely to have an adequate understanding of progressive bone loss, as were people who spoke English as a second language (ESL).

These results, which appeared in the American version of the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, were collected from more than 200 patients in two Toronto hospitals. All participants were over the age of 40 and had recently suffered a fracture.

Researchers gave volunteers a 30-response questionnaire. Each question listed a statement regarding broken bones, skeletal health or osteoporosis, followed by the answers "true," false" and "don't know."

The average number of correct responses was 16.5, indicating that the mean level of patient knowledge of osteoporosis lay at 55 percent accuracy.

Scientists noted that a patient's likelihood of marking a greater-than-average number of correct responses was associated with their gender, primary language, exercise frequency, employment status and exposure to osteoporosis-related information through a healthcare institution or periodical.

Generally, patients who were male, non-English speaking, unemployed and rarely or never exposed to osteoporosis-oriented literature tended to know the least about the disease.

The study's authors concluded that while the cohort's low average score - the equivalent of a failing grade - indicated that public health initiatives should target all aging adults, men and ESL speakers are at a particularly high risk of being uninformed about osteoporosis.

This lack of knowledge about bone loss puts these individuals at risk of leading unhealthy lifestyles, which could hasten the onset of osteoporosis.

Co-author Angela Cheung said that her team's findings point to a need for regularized bone health education and bone density tests among all mature patients with fractures.

"Due to the result of this study, we recommend that anyone older than age 50 who has had a fragility fracture, whether a man or a woman, that person should be assessed for osteoporosis," she stated.

Every year, more than 2 million osteoporosis-related fractures occur in the U.S., according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation.