Socioeconomic Status and Osteoporosis Risk

Is There a Link?

Catching Dollars and CentsIs there an association between socioeconomic status, bone mineral density, and vertebral wedge deformities? In a recent study, a team led by researchers at the University of Melbourne in Australia explored how these factors might affect one another to help illuminate factors that increase the risk of osteoporosis.

The study, “Social disadvantage, bone mineral density and vertebral wedge deformities in the Tasmanian Older Adult Cohort,” was published online ahead of print in November 2012. It appears in the journal Osteoporosis International.

The researchers relied on data from 1,074 adults. Approximately half of the study population was female. Dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) was used to assess patients’ bone mineral density and wedge deformities. These findings were examined against the participants’ levels of social disadvantage. Socioeconomic status was assessed using the participants’ residential addresses and 2001 census data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Additionally, information on several lifestyle factors was collected, such as participants’ age, body mass index (BMI), smoking behavior, alcohol consumption, level of physical activity, serum vitamin D (25(OH)D), use of calcium and vitamin D supplements, glucocorticoid use, and hormone therapy (in women).

The results of the study showed that socially disadvantaged males consumed less dietary calcium and less alcohol than other males, while socially disadvantaged women had a higher BMI and also consumed less alcohol than women who were not defined as socially disadvantaged. In women, social disadvantage was negatively associated with hip bone mineral density; however, this finding did not hold for men.

The researchers conclude that their study results demonstrate an association between social disadvantage and bone mineral density in women, but not in men. This finding was independent of women’s body mass index, or other risk factors for osteoporosis. Additionally, vertebral deformities were less common in men who experienced extreme social disadvantage. The researchers conclude that more research is needed to probe the causes of these associations. 

Updated on: 08/25/16
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