Selective mortality in middle-aged American women with Diffuse Idiopathic Skeletal Hyperostosis (DISH)

George R. Milner, Jesper L. Boldsen, Stephen D. Ousley, Sara M. Getz, Svenja Weise, Peter Tarp, Dawnie W. Steadman

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11 Scopus citations


Objective A mortality sample of white American male and female skeletons was examined to illustrate a simple means of identifying skeletal conditions associated with an increased risk of dying relatively early in adulthood and to determine if males and females with Diffuse Idiopathic Skeletal Hyperostosis (DISH) displayed the same general age-specific pattern of mortality. Methods Age-specific probability distributions for DISH were generated from 416 white Americans who died from the 1980s to the present, and whose remains were donated to the University of Tennessee Forensic Anthropology Center. The age-specific frequency of DISH is analyzed using an empirical smoothing algorithm. Doing so allows for the identification of deviations (i.e., local maxima) from monotonically increasing age-specific probabilities. Results In females (N = 199), there is a peak in the frequency of individuals with DISH around 60 years of age where 37.0% of the individuals have DISH. It is matched only by the frequency (38.7%) in the oldest females, those over 85 years old. In contrast, DISH frequencies for males (N = 217) increase monotonically with advancing age, reaching 62.5% in the 86 years age group. There was an association between DISH and high body weight in women, particularly those who died before they reached the age of 75. Conclusions Early-onset DISH in white American women is associated with an increased risk of dying indicated by a local maximum in the probability curve. Should this finding be replicated in additional mortality samples and the reason DISH is associated with early death is established, beyond being heavy, this radiologically visible ossification of the spine could be a potential component of health-monitoring programs for middle-aged women.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0202283
JournalPloS one
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General


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