The diagnosis of osteoporosis centres on the assessment of bone mineral density (BMD). Osteoporosis is defined as a BMD 2.5 SD or more below the average value for premenopausal women (T score < -2.5 SD). Severe osteoporosis denotes osteoporosis in the presence of one or more fragility fractures. The same absolute value for BMD used in women can be used in men. The recommended site for diagnosis is the proximal femur with dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA). Other sites and validated techniques, however, can be used for fracture prediction. Although hip fracture prediction with BMD alone is at least as good as blood pressure readings to predict stroke, the predictive value of BMD can be enhanced by use of other factors, such as biochemical indices of bone resorption and clinical risk factors. Clinical risk factors that contribute to fracture risk independently of BMD include age, previous fragility fracture, premature menopause, a family history of hip fracture, and the use of oral corticosteroids. In the absence of validated population screening strategies, a case finding strategy is recommended based on the finding of risk factors. Treatment should be considered in individuals subsequently shown to have a high fracture risk. Because of the many techniques available for fracture risk assessment, the 10-year probability of fracture is the desirable measurement to determine intervention thresholds. Many treatments can be provided cost-effectively to men and women if hip fracture probability over 10 years ranges from 2% to 10% dependent on age.