Perceived risk of osteoporosis: restricted physical activities? Qualitative interview study with women in their sixties

Scand J Prim Health Care. 2007 Sep;25(3):160-5. doi: 10.1080/02813430701305668.


Objective: To explore elderly women's physical activity in relation to their perception of the risk of osteoporosis.

Design: Qualitative study using in-depth interviews.

Setting: Informants were purposely selected from a Danish population-based, age-specific cohort study conducted in the county of Copenhagen with people born in 1936.

Subjects: Women in their sixties.

Results: Women who perceived a current risk of osteoporosis tended to reduce their physical activity in an attempt to reduce the risk of bone damage. This behaviour was related to the imagined fragility of the bones (the risk inside the body), and the actual situations (the risk outside the body), including places and activities. Knowledge of a reduced bone mass reinforced the women's uncertainty about what their bones could endure. Experiences managing physical activity without injury resulted in reinterpretations of their risk of bone fractures and increased physical activity.

Conclusions: Perceived risk of osteoporosis may lead to decreased physical activity and hence actually increase the risk. When informing individuals about health risk people's images and imaginations of the actual risk have to be acknowledged. When a bone scan is being considered, explicit advice encouraging physical activity - especially the weight-bearing kind - should be stressed.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Cohort Studies
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Fractures, Spontaneous / etiology
  • Fractures, Spontaneous / prevention & control
  • Health Behavior
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Osteoporosis, Postmenopausal / etiology*
  • Osteoporosis, Postmenopausal / prevention & control
  • Osteoporosis, Postmenopausal / psychology
  • Risk Factors
  • Self Concept
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires