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Broken Bones May Raise Death Risk for Older Adults

Study looks beyond well-established mortality resulting from non-hip fractures

Mature woman sitting in wheel cheer, has a broken leg propped up. She is talking to a doctor in a hospital. Mature man is holding the wheelchair behind her.

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The increased chances of older people dying after hip fractures has long been established in a number of studies. Now a new study has found that breaking other major bones also may lead to higher mortality rates for older adults over one-year and 10-year periods.

Researchers tracked the post-fracture health of all of the more than 30,000 patients in Denmark over age 50 (some 21,000 women with an average age of 72 and 9,000 men with an average age of 67) who had broken major bones after 2001.


AARP Health Tool: Broken Hip


In their data, they found the following excess mortality rates — the increase in deaths above what would otherwise be expected — one year after the breaks: femur or pelvis, 20 to 25 percent; vertebra, 10 percent; humerus, rib or clavicle, 5 to 10 percent; lower leg fractures, 3 percent.

Over the longer term, excess rates fell but were still apparent.

“Excess mortality remained evident for more than 10 years after a hip fracture and for approximately five years following a proximal non-hip or lower leg fracture, ranging from three years following a rib fracture to about six to seven years following a vertebral or humerus fracture,” the study authors wrote.

Researchers said the study “highlights the important contribution of a wide variety of fragility fractures to long-term excess mortality, and thus the potential for benefit from early intervention.”

The results were published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. 

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