The effect of latitude on the risk and seasonal variation in hip fracture in Sweden

J Bone Miner Res. 2014 Oct;29(10):2217-23. doi: 10.1002/jbmr.2250.


Although the optimal requirement of vitamin D for skeletal health in the general community is controversial, vitamin D deficiency impairs bone mineralization and increases bone turnover via secondary hyperparathyroidism, thus accelerating bone loss and increasing fracture risk. Support for a role of vitamin D deficiency in the epidemiology of hip fracture is found in the seasonal variation of hip fracture incidence that is reported in several studies. If the association were causal, then the incidence and amplitude of the seasonal variation in hip fracture risk should vary by latitude. We addressed this hypothesis by examining the incidence of hip fracture in men and women aged 50 years or more from Sweden (latitudes 55 to 69°) between 1987 and 2009. In order to reduce double counting, only one fracture in a period of a year was counted per individual. Men contributed 104,888 fractures in 33,313,065 person years and women 264,362 fractures in 38,387,660 person years. The effects of season and latitude were examined by Poisson regression. As expected, hip fracture rates were higher in women than in men. After adjustment for age, season and population density, hip fracture incidence increased by 3.0% (95% CI: 2.7-3.2%) per degree increase in latitude for men and by 1.9% (95% CI: 1.8-2.1%) for women. There was a marked seasonal variation of hip fracture with the highest risk in February and lower by 37.5% in men and by 23.5% women during the summer. There were significant interactions of amplitude of the seasonal variation with latitude (p < 0.001 for both men and women), indicating that seasonal variation during the year was more pronounced in the north of Sweden than in the south. The associations found with latitude and season is consistent with a role of vitamin D in hip fracture causation.


MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Geography*
  • Hip Fractures / epidemiology*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Population Density
  • Risk Factors
  • Seasons*
  • Sweden / epidemiology