Older women have been found to be more likely to develop brittle, facture-prone bones after menopause if they are under a lot of social strain.
In a study published in Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, high social stress was identified as a risk factor that increases bone loss in aging women. University of Arizona researchers followed 11,020 postmenopausal women over six years, and gave them periodic bone mineral density (BMD) tests and mood assessments.
The participants rated their level of social strain, or negative interactions or relationships; their social support, or positive relationships; and social functioning, or limitations in social activity.
The researchers reported that each one-point increase in social strain scores was associated with 0.082% greater loss of BMD in the neck, 0.108% greater loss of BMD at the hip, and 0.069% greater loss of BMD in the lower spine.
Most previous studies on the connections between osteoporosis and mental health have looked at the impact of bone thinning or fractures on mood disorders like depression or anxiety, not the other way around, according to the researchers.
The researchers also found that lower social functioning was tied to greater decreases in BMD in the neck and hip, while low social support was associated with greater decreases in the neck.
While the study doesn’t prove that social stressors directly impact bone mineral density, the results do suggest the potential bone-benefits of therapies that help women who are anxious or have higher social stress levels, according to the authors.
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