Our experts respond to study linking social life to bone health

16 Jul 2019

Bone health may be affected by poor quality social relationships, suggests a new study. However, our osteoporosis specialists say there isn’t enough evidence to be sure this is true.

Published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, the study measured bone density and psychosocial stress – a type of stress caused by any type of social interaction – in more than 11,000 US postmenopausal women.

The study followed the participants for six years and found that women with high levels of psychosocial stress, as self-reported by questionnaire, were more likely to have lower bone density. The researchers suggested this may be due to stress-related hormone changes affecting the body’s process of making and repairing bone tissue.

Our clinical adviser Professor Richard Eastell, Professor of Bone Metabolism at the University of Sheffield, cautions that the results are not statistically significant and don’t prove that stress causes bone loss.

“There may well be an association between stress and bone loss, but this doesn’t prove one causes the other,” said Professor Eastell.

“When people are stressed, they may smoke more, drink more alcohol and exercise less. The researchers have thought about some of these factors that could be the cause of lower bone density, but there may be others. We shouldn’t put much weight on these findings.”

The study concludes with a recommendation that postmenopausal women may benefit from having access to better social support networks.

Although we don’t have the evidence this will improve your bone strength, we know it can help you get the information and support you need.

Could you benefit from connecting with other people with osteoporosis? Find your local support group and meet people going through the same thing as you.

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