ASMI says osteoporosis prevalence statistics highlight importance of calcium and vitamin D for bone health

04 September 2014

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4 September 2014 - The Australian Self Medication Industry (ASMI) said estimates of the number of Australians living with osteoporosis highlights the importance of preventing this chronic disease.

In its report, Estimating the Prevalence of Osteoporosis in Australia,1 the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) said that it is difficult to accurately estimate the true prevalence of osteoporosis in the community because it has no obvious symptoms and many cases are not diagnosed until a minimal trauma fracture occurs. While several epidemiological studies have attempted to provide definitive prevalence estimates of osteoporosis in Australia, estimates vary according to the methodology of the study and a variety of other factors.

The Australian Health Survey (2011-12) reported that the prevalence of self-reported diagnosed osteoporosis amongst those aged 50 and over living in the community was 15% of women and 3% of men. 2 However, a study which measured bone density in a population sample revealed that the prevalence of osteoporosis among those aged 50 and over was 23% of women and 6% of men. This estimate includes both diagnosed and undiagnosed cases of osteoporosis. 3

Steve Scarff, ASMI Director Regulatory and Scientific Affairs said: "Osteoporosis is a disease in which the density and quality of bone are reduced, leading to weakness of the skeleton. The condition increases the risk of fracture, particularly at the hip, spine and wrist. With a growing number of Australians reaching retirement age, osteoporosis is expected to grow in prevalence.4

"Calcium is an essential mineral that is stored in the bones of the human body. It is not only required for the normal development and maintenance of the skeleton, but also to ensure optimal operation of neuromuscular and cardiac functions.5

"While the required intake of calcium is typically met through the consumption of calcium rich foods such as dairy products, nuts and fish, the absorption and metabolism of this mineral is dependent on vitamin D. Sufficient vitamin D intake is particularly important in low light conditions, as the body's ability to synthesise the compound is dependent on exposure to ultraviolet light.

"Nearly a quarter of Australians have a vitamin D deficiency. The 2011-13 Australian Health Survey (AHS) found that 17% of people had a mild deficiency, 6% a moderate deficiency and less than 1% a severe deficiency. Vitamin D deficiency was much lower in those who took a supplement. 6

"The Australian Health Survey found that one in twenty people used a vitamin D supplement. For people who aren't obtaining adequate vitamin D from natural sources such as sunlight, supplementation is a highly effective way to fill the gap.

"Australians who are unsure about their calcium and vitamin D intake are encouraged to talk to a qualified healthcare professional who can provide advice on ways to monitor and if needed, increase their calcium and vitamin D levels," said Mr Scarff.

1. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Estimating the prevalence of osteoporosis in Australia. September 2014.
2. Australian Bureau of Statistics 2012. Australian Health Survey: first results, 2011-12. ABS cat. no. 4364.0.55.001. Canberra: ABS.
3. Henry MJ, Pasco JA, Nicholson GC & Kotowicz MA. Prevalence of osteoporosis in
Australian men and women: Geelong Osteoporosis Study. Medical Journal of Australia, 2011, 195(6):321-322.
4. Watts, J., Abimanyi-Ochom, J. and Sanders, K. Osteoporosis costing all Australians A new burden of disease analysis - 2012 to 2022. 2013. Osteoporosis Australia.
5. Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Centre. About Herbs, Botanicals & Other Products - Integrative Medicine. January 2013.
6. Australian Bureau of Statistics. National Health Survey 2011-13.

About ASMI: The Australian Self-Medication Industry (ASMI) is the peak body representing sponsors of non-prescription medicines - over-the-counter (OTC) and complementary medicines. Its members make up 85 per cent of the $4bn self care market. Membership totals 60 companies and ASMI members employ approximately 18,000 people with exports estimated at $1.2 billion annually. ASMI's mission is to promote better health through responsible self care. This means ensuring that safe and effective self care products are readily available to all Australians at a reasonable cost. ASMI works to encourage responsible use by consumers and an increasing role for cost-effective self-medication products as part of the broad national health strategy (

For more information or to arrange a media interview, please contact:
Marie Kelly-Davies
PR Manager, Australian Self Medication Industry (ASMI)
P: 9923 9410 M:0408 256 381 E: