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In the most comprehensive study of its kind, researchers at the University of Oxford and Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust found a substantially higher rate of fractures in people with intellectual disability compared with people of the same age and gender without an intellectual disability.

X-ray of a hip fracture

The researchers, led by Senior Clinical Researcher Valeria Frighi at the Department of Psychiatry, looked at rates of fracture recorded either in general practice or in hospital records, over a 20-year period, 1998-2017. They compared rates between 43,000 individuals with intellectual disability (also known as learning disability) and 215,000 without, throughout the life course.

The study, published open access in eClinicalMedicine, found that fracture rates are substantially higher in those with intellectual disability. Fracture incidence starts to rise as people get older, but in those with intellectual disability the rise begins many years earlier than expected.

The types of bones most affected by the fractures points to early onset osteoporosis as the underlying basis for the increased rates. Hip fracture rates are particularly raised. Comparable rates of hip fracture occur approximately 15 to 25 years earlier in people with intellectual disability. For example, at age 45, women with intellectual disability have a rate of hip fracture similar to 60-year-old women without intellectual disability. Forty-five-year-old men with intellectual disability have similar rates of hip fracture to 70-year-old men without intellectual disability. 

Read the full story on the University of Oxford website

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