New report shows how osteoporosis is cutting tens of thousands off from work and friends
Media release on 20 Oct 2021
New figures released by the Royal Osteoporosis Society (ROS) on World Osteoporosis Day today show how millions are missing out on the healthcare they need, with only half of people with osteoporosis feeling confident managing it.
The new Life with Osteoporosis survey is the biggest report for many years into life with the overlooked health condition and provide a new insight into how life has changed over the last decade for the 3.5m people living with osteoporosis.
Key findings from the report include:
- Over a quarter of respondents (26%) are living with long-term pain, with just 56% of people feeling confident about how to manage pain (a 10pt drop from 2014).
- 42% say their osteoporosis has affected them physically; 71% of those have suffered height loss or change in body shape, including lost height and curvature of the spine (warning signs often mistaken for ‘just getting old’)
- Almost three-quarters (71%) have trouble with cleaning and cooking, two-thirds (67%) struggle with the shopping, while over half (52%) say the condition affects their ability to get around by driving and public transport
- Just over half (51%) have reduced or stopped hobbies, while 47% have cut back on social activities
- One in five (17%) said they’ve had to scale back work because of their osteoporosis, either retiring early or reducing their hours. This suggests the disease could be costing the UK economy significantly lower output from over half a million people.
The report shows that the disease affects people in lower-income households more severely. The findings show they’re more likely to live with long-term pain, to have had their work lives and living arrangements affected, as well as to feel severely socially isolated and cut off from the help they need.
In a bitter irony, osteoporosis – which is one of the top global challenges for living well in later life – is known as a ‘silent disease’ because of under-diagnosis, under-treatment and low levels of public awareness of the importance of bone health to growing older healthily. Yet, today and every day, someone suffers a broken bone (a fracture) every minute due to osteoporosis1.
Published figures show that over 60% of people who are at high risk of fractures are missing out on the healthcare they need. Many people who attend A&E with fractures are fixed up and sent home, without treating the underlying osteoporosis. This leaves them vulnerable to repeated, painful fractures. ROS data shows a quarter of women suffer three or more fractures before finally getting a diagnosis and moved onto the safe, effective medication that can repair their bones.
The Life with Osteoporosis report shows the mountain we must climb to help people navigate the treatment options their independence could depend on:
- Less than half (48%) were confident they’re on the right treatment regime, with only 53% saying the benefits and drawbacks of their medication were properly explained to them
- Less than half of people (42%) think their doctor takes osteoporosis seriously – an 18pt drop since the question was asked in 2014
- Under a third (32%) of people felt they were getting the level of monitoring and review they need, which is also down 15pts since 2014
- Only half (54%) felt confident about managing their osteoporosis properly, suggesting that millions are missing opportunities to prevent further debilitating fractures
Craig Jones, Chief Executive of the Royal Osteoporosis Society said:
“We’ve under-estimated osteoporosis as a society for many decades, with the disease being one of the foremost obstacles to living well in older age. We’re all living longer, but the independence and social lives of many hundreds of thousands are being stolen by this cruel disease. The missed opportunities to respond to early warning signs lead to people slipping through the cracks every day.
“It doesn’t need to be like this. Most of the distress, social isolation, broken connections and spiralling NHS cost caused by osteoporosis are preventable. With a prompt diagnosis and the right support, we can transform people’s experience of later life, prevent enormous suffering and protect the recovering NHS.”
The low profile of osteoporosis is not a UK-specific problem, with health systems across the world falling short in tackling this major barrier to ageing well. This is driven, in part, by misconceptions that shrinking bodies are just a normal part of getting older, that the disease only affects women, and that bones are lifeless and unchangeable.
In fact, people can pay into their ‘bone bank’ through weight-bearing exercise, good calcium levels and sufficient vitamin D to prevent osteoporosis and protect their independence in later life.
HRH The Duchess of Cornwall is highlighting the importance of supporting people living with osteoporosis at a World Osteoporosis Day afternoon tea at Clarence House. Her Royal Highness has been President of the Royal Osteoporosis Society since 2001 and became involved with the charity following the deaths of her mother and grandmother as a result of the condition.
Today’s report has been presented to the PM’s advisors at Number 10 to inform government officials as they consider how to support people living with chronic conditions following the pandemic’s impact on our overstretched NHS.
1 British Orthopaedic Association. The Care of Patients with Fragility Fracture. London: British Orthopaedic Association
Wednesday, October 20, 2021
Camerton , United Kingdom
Royal Osteoporosis Society