Socioeconomic Status and Risk of Osteoporosis and Osteoporotic Fractures

Assessing the Roles of Poverty and Other Factors

Coins in a jar being thrown in the airWhat role does socioeconomic status play in people’s risk for osteoporosis, osteoporotic fractures, and other health conditions?

A recent study by Spanish researchers set out to explore these and other associations. The study is titled, “Osteoporosis and metabolic syndrome according to socio-economic status; contribution of PTH, Vitamin D and body weight: The Canarian Osteoporosis Poverty Study (COPS).” It was published online ahead of print in September 2012 in Clinical Endocrinology.

The researchers state that poverty has been associated with many diseases; however, the links between poverty, bone density, risk of osteoporotic fractures, and metabolic syndrome have not been well understood. The study authors were also interested in examining the roles of vitamin D deficiency and parathyroid hormone (PTH) levels on these associations.

The researchers examined data on 1,250 postmenopausal women. A personal interview was used to assess socioeconomic status (using criteria from the Spanish Institute of Statistics). The women were grouped into 2 categories: low poverty or medium/high poverty.

The test protocol also included a lateral radiograph of the thoracic and lumbar spines, a physical examination, and a health questionnaire. Women’s bone mineral density (BMD) was measured at the lumbar spine and proximal femur. Additionally, the participants’ fasting blood was used to measure their PTH, vitamin D levels, and other variables.

The results showed that poverty was linked to higher PTH, higher bodyweight, higher body mass index, vitamin D insufficiency, lower BMD at the lumbar spine, and a higher prevalence of vertebral and non-vertebral fractures. Lower socioeconomic status was also linked to metabolic syndrome, though the researchers note that this association was due to higher BMI in poverty. Additionally, high PTH and lack of vitamin D were associated with osteoporotic fracture risk.

The researchers conclude that poverty is associated with osteoporosis and higher osteoporotic fracture risk; higher prevalence of metabolic syndrome; higher PTH levels; and, vitamin D insufficiency in women in southern Europe.

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