Bone density on the decline in the United States

To track the health of its population, the federal government undertakes a massive health survey of the U.S. population every two years, known as the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). Beginning in 2005, the survey has included bone mineral density measurements — and the most recent report shows a generalized decline in bone density. What's the reason for this?

Bone density's sudden downward spiral 

These national surveys study a multi-ethnic sample of non-institutionalized individuals age 30 and over. Between 2005 and 2010, NHANES data showed bone mineral density to be fairly stable, which seemed to correlate with the slight decrease in hip fracture incidence reported by other researchers. But when they measured bone mineral density in 2014, they found a significant and generalized decrease in bone density.

Survey cycles        Bone Mineral Density

2005-2006             Generalized stability of bone density

2007-2008             Generalized stability of bone density

2009-2010             Generalized stability of bone density

2010-2014             Generalized significant decline in bone density

What's the reason for this? 

Take a look at what else happened to us as a population between 2005 and 2014

  • The percentage of people with a sedentary lifestyle more than tripled — in women, 9.59% reported being physically inactive in 2005 compared to 31.82% in 2014, while in men, 87% reported being physically inactive in 2014 compared to 22.83% in 2005.
  • Not surprisingly, the percentage of people with hypertension also increased, from 35.4% to 45.08% from 2005 to 2014.
  • Equally predictably, the percentage of self-reported diabetes increased 6% for both men and women

To me, it looks as though our ever-increasing lack of physical activity is catching up with our bones and our body, resulting in declining bone density. It makes sense. Exercise, even in small amounts, is known to positively affect inflammation, stress, cardiovascular health, and, of course, our bones. It stands to reason that all of these would suffer if we spent too much time sitting. Concerned about your bone density? Learn about how our natural approach to bone health can keep your bones stronger, longer.


Xu Y, Wu Q.  Decreasing trend of bone mineral density in the US multiethnic population: analysis of continuous NHANES 2005-2014. Osteoporosis Int. (2018) 29:2437-2446.