Explaining Rates of Broken Bones

Bone fracture risk over a lifetime was associated with behavior and health factors

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Broken bones happen for many reasons. From weak bones to accidental falls and lifestyle choices, researchers recently explored these reasons.

According to a recent study conducted in the UK, most fractures were due to either a fall-related injury or poor bone health.

The chance of bone fracture happening over a lifetime was associated with smoking, illness and drinking alcohol in men. In women, fracture was linked to marital status, obesity and drinking alcohol.

The authors of this study suggested that this information can be used to develop guidelines to help doctors and patients work to prevent fractures.

"Ask your doctor how to maintain strong bones."

The lead author of this study was Dr. Shaun Scholes, from Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London, London, UK.

For this study, Dr. Scholes and colleagues examined data from the annual Health Survey for England (HSE) conducted from 2002 to 2007. These surveys were conducted face-to-face and collected information on a number of fractures in the last year. The researchers also used data from the National Statistics Socio-Economic Classification and the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-12). Surveys from 24,725 adults ages 55 and over were included.

The data was evaluated by comparing information provided on the surveys with fractures.

The factors linked to fractures were broken into three groups: sociodemographic factors (age, social class and marital status), health behavior and health conditions. Health behaviors looked at were smoking, drinking and activity level. Under the category of health conditions, the researchers considered illness, stroke, heart disease, obesity, medications used and hormone replacement therapy.

Of the groups of people studied, 44 percent said they had broken at least one bone. Fractures were reported by 49 percent of the men and 40 percent of the women.

Of the fractures reported, most were located on the foot, hand or forearm. Women reported more hip fractures. Men reported more shoulder blade, hand, leg and foot breaks. Hip fractures were more common in older adults.

Single men reported about 20 percent fewer broken bones compared to married men. Male current or past smokers had over a 23 percent increase in fractures.

The amount of alcohol consumed raised the risk of broken bones in men from 14 percent increase in light drinkers to over 59 percent increase in heavy drinkers.

Single women had about a 17 percent increase in fractures. They had an increase in the odds of breaking a bone if they were past or present smokers of 15-20 percent.

Moderate and heavy drinking increased fractures in women.

Women presently taking hormone replacement therapy reported a 34 percent increase in fractures.

The researchers commented that, “Compared with other contributors to the population health burden, there is an urgent need for population studies of fractures that can separate likely causation related to fall-related trauma from that due to poor bone health. This is because the approach to prevention in each case is very different.”

These researchers noted that the large number of people studied made the results of their study strong and reliable. They admitted that they may have missed including some of the oldest and frailest members of society who live outside the home in care facilities.

This study appeared in the November 14 issue of Age and Ageing. This specific study was unfunded, but the data used in study was supported by the Department of Health/Health and Social Care Information Centre. The authors claimed no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
November 23, 2013
Last Updated:
December 31, 2013