World Health Matters: China: Osteoporosis fractures expected to double by 2035

by Gary Finnegan: China is facing a major increasing in osteoporosis-related fractures, according to a new study which forecasts a doubling of fractures in the next 20 years.

Fractures in China’s elderly population represent a growing economic burden to the Chinese health-care system and this too is expected to increase dramatically as the population ages. Costs will rise from approximately US$10 billion in 2010 to US$25.4 billion in 2050, according to a paper published in Osteoporosis International.

While access to quality health care in China is improving, demographics suggest the burden of osteoporosis is set to rise.

“With increasing life expectancy and a growing population of seniors aged over 70 years, there is no doubt that the burden of osteoporosis and related fractures will grow dramatically in China,” said Lei Si, lead investigator of the study. “Our study underlines the need for an urgent focus on fracture preventive strategies and resources to treat and care for elderly fracture patients in the future.”

The International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF) estimates that by 2050 more than 50% of all osteoporotic fractures will occur in Asia and China will be the country which is most affected due to its large population of seniors.

By 2050, the Chinese population is projected to decrease slightly to 1.3 billion, but those aged over 50 years will reach almost half (49%) of the total population. In addition, those aged 70 years or above are projected to rise from 81 million in 2013 to 132 million in 2025, reaching 263 million by 2050. This is the population group at highest risk of costly and debilitating hip fractures.

Andrew Palmer, Professor of Health Economics, Menzies Institute for Medical Research, University of Tasmania said the study idenfities a huge and increase cost that fractures will impose on Chinese society. “We now need to identify effective screening, prevention and treatment strategies that are good value for money in order to reduce the size of this problem.”

The study was a collaborative project between the University of Tasmania, Anhui Medical University and Nanjing Medical University.