Led by the highly accomplished Professor Julie Pasco, the Geelong Osteoporosis Study is a prospective observational study of over 5,000 men and women aged 20 years or older who were recruited from the Barwon Statistical Division in south- eastern Australia. The cohorts are recalled every 2-5 years for follow-up assessment phases and several thousand more provide data for the team’s fracture register.

Founded in 1993, the Geelong Osteoporosis Study is one of the longest running cohort studies in the world and is internationally recognised.

Initially, the study was to describe the epidemiology of osteoporosis in Australia and identify risk factors for fractures and falls. Over two decades later, Julie has expanded the Study to investigate determinants of healthy ageing and identify causes of chronic disease which are the major cause of illness, disability and death, not only in the Geelong region, but across Australia.

“The most important potential of the study is that clinical and environmental risk factors are documented before the onset of disease and this is essential for identifying risk factors for disease, particularly risk factors that are amenable to modification and can be targeted.”

Combining her outstanding knowledge and research with that of the renowned Head of Psychiatry, Professor Michael Berk, in the IMPACT Strategic Research Centre at Barwon Health has seen a focus on chronic disease patterns, risk factors and novel therapies for psychiatric, musculoskeletal and metabolic disorders, including the link between physical and mental health.

The Proof and Potential

Significantly, Julie and her team were also the first in the world to report that general inflammation in the body is a marker for fragile bones and increased fracture risk and identified smoking as increasing the risk of new onset major depression; that physical inactivity increases the risk for poor mood; that obesity increases the risk for fractures; and that some cholesterol- lowering and anti-hypertensive medications protect the skeleton against fracture, while some antidepressants are noxious to bones.

The onset and progression of osteoporosis can be slowed and many fractures prevented. Importantly, age-related loss of muscle mass and strength can also be slowed and many older individuals can avoid frailty. There is an urgent need for the community be guided in how to adopt lifestyles and actions that will prevent or slow the progression of such chronic diseases.... the potential could save tens, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars but, more importantly, provide greater autonomy and a better quality of life for our ageing population.


You can read more about Professor Pasco and the work of her research team by clicking HERE