Hip fractures are recognized to be a major public health problem in many Western nations, most notably those in North America, Europe and Oceania. Incidence rates for hip fracture in other parts of the world are generally lower than those reported for these predominantly Caucasian populations, and this has led to the belief that osteoporosis represents less of a problem to the nations of Asia, South American and Africa. Demographic changes in the next 60 years, however, will lead to huge increases in the elderly populations of those countries. We have applied available incidence rates for hip fracture from various parts of the world to projected populations in 1990, 2025 and 2050 in order to estimate the numbers of hip fractures which might occur in each of the major continental regions. The projections indicate that the number of hip fractures occurring in the world each year will rise from 1.66 million in 1990 to 6.26 million by 2050. While Europe and North America account for about half of all hip fractures among elderly people today, this proportion will fall to around one quarter in 2050, by which time steep increases will be observed throughout Asia and Latin America. The results suggest that osteoporosis will truly become a global problem over the next half century, and that preventive strategies will be required in parts of the world where they are not currently felt to be necessary.