The main cause of osteoporosis is an age-related decrease in the body’s production of hormones. This means less estrogen in women after menopause (when their periods stop for at least a year). In older men, there is less testosterone.

Due to the drop in hormones, women over age 50 and men over 70 have a higher risk for osteoporosis. Men "catch up" to women after age 75, when men’s risk equals women’s risk of osteoporosis. 

Other risks related to osteoporosis include diet, physical condition, ethnicity, and disease.


  • Poor nutrition or eating disorders
  • Lack of vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin D and calcium
  • Drinking three or more alcoholic drinks a day or using tobacco

Physical Condition

  • Lack of physical activity
  • Low body weight or a small body frame


  • Age
  • Being white or Asian (other ethnic groups are also at risk)
  • Family history of osteoporosis


  • Chronic rheumatoid arthritis
  • Chronic kidney or liver disease
  • Digestive problems related to surgery or diseases, such as celiac, that make absorbing  nutrients ard.
  • Medications, like some steroids, may cause loss of calcium from bones.
  • Diseases of the glands, like thyroid, parathyroid, or adrenal glands
  • History of cancer
  • For women: Having had an early menopause or surgical removal of ovaries
  • For men: Having had prostate cancer treatments that lower testosterone levels


Last Updated December 2022