Osteoporosis : A teenage perspective
Objectives: To assess the knowledge and health beliefs, on osteoporosis, of 16-18 year olds in full-time education in the UK. This is believed to be an age where peak bone mass, a significant factor in osteoporosis and fracture risk, can be influenced. Knowledge and health beliefs may affect whether preventative behaviours are practised. Design: Convenience sampling method using a self-administered questionnaire. Setting: State and private high schools in Bedfordshire. Participants: A total of 224 16-18 year olds in full-time education. Results: There was an 81 % response rate (224/275) for the questionnaires, with 219 usable in the study. Almost one-third of subjects reported they had heard or read nothing about osteoporosis. There was no significant difference between subjects' perceived likelihood of developing HlV/AlDS or Alzheimer's when compared to osteoporosis, with 73% (74/102) of males and 52% (61/117) of females rating their likelihood of being affected by osteoporosis as low. Many of the subjects, 60% (61/102) of males and 62% (73/117) of females, felt that a person's responsibility for developing osteoporosis was low. Disturbingly, participants were unable to identify many of the known risk factors for osteoporosis and over 50% (67/117) of the females surveyed did not appear to recognise the relationship between menstruation, menopause and the disease. Conclusions: The results of this study demonstrate that there is a low level of knowledge and awareness regarding the prevalence of osteoporosis and its associated risk factors among 16-18 year olds in full-time education. This suggests that this population is unlikely to make lifestyle choices which would reduce the risk of developing the disease. Targeted education programmes are therefore needed and should be aimed at both improving knowledge and affecting health beliefs in a manner appropriate and appealing to this age group.