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Survey shows neglect of bone health widespread in Japan

Modeled after the 11-country "How Fragile is Her Future" survey carried out by IOF in 2000, the Japanese survey assessed osteoporosis awareness in both physicians and in osteoporotic and non-osteoporotic postmenopausal women. 320 postmenopausal women (one-half with osteoporosis, average age just under 60) and 100 doctors were surveyed. The findings, like those of the latest IOF study, showed that although most postmenopausal women have a good basic understanding of osteoporosis, they do recognize themselves to be at personal risk. Only about half the women surveyed considered the disease to be serious and the percentage of those who periodically consult their doctors to receive diagnostic tests is low. The women also thought that osteoporosis could be treated and prevented by lifestyle improvements such as exercise and diet.

The physicians considered early diagnosis and prevention important, but rarely discussed osteoporosis during actual medical examinations. Diagnostic testing usually occurred only after patients complained of symptoms such as pain. Among the women diagnosed with osteoporosis, only 40% continued drug treatment – the majority did not take any treatment due to reasons such as not liking the drugs or side effects.

The survey results highlight the need to continue educational activities for postmenopausal women, with an increased focus on recognition of personal risk. They have also shown that educational training for doctors must be intensified so that diagnosis and treatment occurs before the first fracture. The need for early prevention is underlined by the fact that a woman who has had a first vertebral fracture has a five times higher risk of a further fracture. Furthermore, Japan has a high and growing prevalence of osteoporotic fracture. A 1987 national survey showed that there were 45,000 hip fractures – the same survey in 1992 showed an annual total of 77,000 hip fractures. And, within the last five years the figures has increased by 1.5 times!

Professor Hajime Orimo, chairman of the Japan Osteoporosis Foundation wrote, "Japan has become a country of longevity. Women's average life expectancy has exceeded 80 years of age, placing them in a situation where they are likely to live 30 or more years after menopause. For the women to enjoy enriched lives in these 30 years, with good health, is now a great issue to their families, to Japanese society, as well as to themselves."

How Fragile is Her Future report in Japanese (PDF, 5 MB)
English-language summary of report (PDF, 54 KB)

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