It is a myth that only women develop osteoporosis. The condition can affect people of any sex or gender. However, osteoporosis is significantly more common in females than in males.
Females also tend to develop the condition
However, this does not mean that osteoporosis cannot affect males. According to the Osteoporosis Workgroup, about
Read on to learn more about the myth that only women develop osteoporosis, the rates between males and females, and the factors that can raise the risk.
A note about sex and gender
Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article will use the terms “male,” “female,” or both to refer to sex assigned at birth. Click here to learn more.
People of any sex or gender can develop osteoporosis. This means that it is not only females who can develop the condition. However, the rates of osteoporosis are
It is still possible for males to get osteoporosis. Because the bones naturally weaken with age, the risk of osteoporosis increases over time for all adults.
Estimates suggest that around
The rates also differ by race and ethnicity. For example, a
Data from the
Females tend to develop osteoporosis earlier in life than males. This is because females:
fasterage-related bone loss than males
- typically have smaller, thinner bones
- typically have smaller bodies overall
These factors make a person more likely to develop osteoporosis if their bone density decreases.
The risk of fractures in people with osteoporosis varies greatly from person to person, as many factors influence the likelihood. However, the risk is higher in females than males overall.
The risk also varies by location. For example, a 2021 research article states that in Sweden, the lifetime risk of a hip fracture among females over 50 is 22.8%, while in Germany, France, Spain, and the United Kingdom, the figure ranges from 10–17%.
Although more females with osteoporosis have fractures in comparison to males, some research suggests that males who do have fractures are more likely to have complications.
The risk factors for osteoporosis are similar across genders, but how frequently they occur varies by sex, lifestyle, and other factors.
The risk factors
- older age
- a lack of nutrition, particularly low calcium or vitamin D intake
- a lack of physical activity
- low body weight
- being white or Asian
- having low estrogen
- menopause or early menopause
- a family history of osteoporosis
- a personal history of fractures
- drinking alcohol
- taking certain medications, such as corticosteroids
Osteoporosis is more common in females than in males because some of the risk factors for the disease affect females more often.
For example, most females will experience hormonal changes that increase the risk of osteoporosis, such as menopause. Early menopause or low estrogen levels can also elevate the risk.
However, low estrogen also increases the risk in males, along with low testosterone. Estimates suggest that
Other causes include:
- Body size: A lower body weight is a risk factor for osteoporosis. On average, females have a
smaller body sizethan males.
- Smaller bones: Similarly, females usually have smaller bones than men. This increases the risk of more rapid bone loss.
- Eating disorders: Some eating disorders cause a person to severely limit the foods they eat, which may result in low calcium or vitamin D levels. Women are more likely to develop eating disorders than men.
- Pregnancy and lactation:
Rarely, breastfeeding and pregnancy can deplete bone minerals, causing pregnancy-induced osteoporosis. This is more likely to occur in older females with lower body mass.
It is not only women who develop osteoporosis — people of all sexes and genders can have the condition. However,
Dietary and lifestyle changes can reduce the risk of osteoporosis in males and females. Because the disease causes no symptoms until a bone breaks, screening can also help to detect it early.