Loading icon
Press enter or spacebar to select a desired language.
Health Information Center

Risk Factors for Osteoporosis

  • Amy Scholten, MPH
Publication Type:


Risk Factors for Osteoporosis

A risk factor is something that raises a person's chances of getting a disease or health problem. A person can have osteoporosis with or without the risks below. The more risks a person has, the greater the chances are.

Risk Factors for Women

Women are at greater risk of having osteoporosis than men. This is because they have less bone mass than men. Women also have a sudden drop in hormones (mainly estrogen) at menopause .

Missing a menstrual period for 3 months or longer ( amenorrhea ) can also raise the risk. This can happen with eating disorders or very hard exercise.

Risk Factors for Men

Men have a higher bone mass and lose calcium at a slower rate. But after age 50, bone loss slowly rises.

Low levels of testosterone play a role in bone loss. This may be linked to:

  • Aging
  • Prostate cancer treatment
  • A severe deficiency in the male sex hormone—hypogonadism

Risk Factors in Both Sexes


Bone building slows down as bone loss speeds up. This is normal as you age. But it makes the chances of having osteoporosis higher.


Having a family member with osteoporosis raises the risk. This is especially true if someone has or had a broken hip. Certain genetic diseases also raise the risk.


Not getting enough calcium or vitamin D is a main cause for osteoporosis. Other links to bone loss are too much alcohol or caffeine use. Eating a balanced diet with a lot of different foods is best.

Lack of Physical Activity

Regular physical activity keeps bones strong. Not exercising causes weaker muscles and poorer balance. This can lead to falls and broken bones.


Smoking disrupts bone and joint health. Low bone mass is more common in people who smoke.

Bone Structure and Body Weight

People who are underweight or have a small frame are more apt to get osteoporosis.

Lack of Sunlight

Sun on the skin is the main source of vitamin D. Vitamin D helps grow strong bones. People who do not get enough sun may have low vitamin D levels. This can also happen if a person does not eat enough foods with vitamin D.

Race and Ethnic Background

White, Asian, and Hispanic women are more likely to have osteoporosis. This may also be true in men, but to a lesser degree.

Medicines and Health Problems

The long term use of certain medicines such as:

  • Corticosteroids
  • Immune system suppressants
  • Chemotherapy
  • Gonadotropin releasing hormone
  • Antidepressants
  • Anti-seizures
  • Aluminum antacids
  • Proton pump inhibitors
  • Long term heparin therapy
  • Glitazones—used to treat diabetes

Talk to your doctor before stopping or changing medicines.

Long term health problems such as:


  • Conditions and medicines that can cause falls. National Osteoporosis Foundation website. Available at: https://www.bonehealthandosteoporosis.org/conditions-and-medicines-that-can-cause-falls.
  • LeBoff MS, Greenspan SL, et al. The clinician's guide to prevention and treatment of osteoporosis. Osteoporos Int. 2022;33(10):2049-2102.
  • Osteoporosis overview. NIH Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases National Resource Center website. Available at: https://www.bones.nih.gov/health-info/bone/osteoporosis/overview.
  • Osteoporosis causes and risk factors. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/osteoporosis-causes-and-risk-factors.
  • What women need to know. National Osteoporosis Foundation website. Available at: https://www.bonehealthandosteoporosis.org/preventing-fractures/general-facts/what-women-need-to-know.


  • April Scott, NP
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.