Public Health Nutrition

Research Paper

Attitudes and knowledge about osteoporosis risk prevention: a survey of New Zealand women

Pamela R von Hursta1 c1 and Carol A Whama1

a1 Institute of Food, Nutrition and Human Health, Massey University, Private Bag 102 904, NSMC, Auckland, New Zealand


Objectives The purpose of this study was to investigate the knowledge and health beliefs regarding osteoporosis risk factors of New Zealand women aged 20–49 years.

Design A descriptive, web-based survey.

Subjects An opportunistic sample of 622 women aged between 20 and 49 years living in Auckland, New Zealand was recruited by email.

Results There was a moderate level of knowledge about osteoporosis risk factors among the women surveyed, with a mean total score for all subjects of 16.4 (standard deviation (SD) 4.0) out of a possible 26 correct responses. Mean scores for osteoporosis knowledge were statistically different by age group, with women aged 40–49 years scoring higher than those aged 30–39 years and 20–29 years (17.3 (SD 4.0), 16.4 (SD 4.1) and 15.8 (SD 3.9), respectively, P < 0.001). Overall, about a third of the women perceived that they were likely to develop osteoporosis and 22% believed the disease to be potentially crippling. Most women were aware of the benefits of exercise and optimal calcium nutrition in preventing osteoporosis. Few women perceived barriers to exercise participation and eating calcium-rich foods. Older women (40–49 years) were more motivated to take care of their health than younger women (P < 0.001). A large percentage of subjects (77%) thought that calcium-rich foods contained too much cholesterol.

Conclusions Despite reporting higher than average educational attainment and health consciousness, these women demonstrated average levels of knowledge about osteoporosis risk factors. They had low feelings of susceptibility towards development of osteoporosis, but most considered it to be a serious disease.

(Received June 06 2006)

(Accepted November 13 2006)

(Online publication February 20 2007)


c1 *Corresponding author: Email