Social stress, which can be caused by deteriorating relationships or problems at the workplace (to name a few), correlates to bone loss, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health.
This research is another entry in the growing pool of evidence that psychological and emotional factors have a clear and measurable impact on our physical health– including our bone health.
Today we'll take a closer look at this study and other research about how stress could be impeding your ability to build and maintain strong and healthy bones.
An Association Between High Social Stress And Low Bone Mass
Researchers at the University of Arizona, Tuscon conducted a study with 11,020 postmenopausal women in the United States. They measured the participants' bone mineral density (BMD) at the femoral neck, lumbar spine, and total hip. The participants self-reported their psychosocial stress levels.
Psychosocial stress– sometimes referred to more simply as social stress— can result from a strained interpersonal relationship, like a troubled marriage, or a difficult social environment, such as a hostile workplace.
The researchers followed up with the participants, measuring their BMD and social stress levels for six years. The study compared the participants' social stress levels to their bone mineral density to see if there was a consistent relationship between the two.
Here are their findings:
“High social stress was associated with decreased BMD over 6 years. After adjustment for confounders, each point higher in social strain was associated with 0.082% greater loss of femoral neck BMD, 0.108% greater loss of total hip BMD and 0.069% greater loss of lumbar spine BMD (p<0.05).
Low social functioning and low social support were associated with greater decreases in femoral neck BMD, and low social functioning was associated with greater decreases in total hip BMD."
The researchers ultimately associated poor quality of social relationships with bone loss in postmenopausal women. These findings provide us with evidence that caring for your mental and emotional health and maintaining strong social relationships is an essential part of keeping your bones healthy.
A study measured the bone mineral density and social stress levels of 11,020 postmenopausal women over six years. They found that the women who experienced more social strain lost more bone mass than women who experienced less social stress and had more social support.
Further Research On Stress And Osteoporosis
A study published in Frontiers In Psychiatry examined the relationship between stress and bone loss by reviewing previous studies on the subject. Unlike, the study detailed above, which observed the outcomes of stress levels on bone mass, this review looked at the mechanisms that might underly these outcomes.
The researchers cite studies that have identified compounds implicated in both mental health conditions and osteoporosis. Here are the compounds they identified:
Glucocorticoids (Cortisol) – Stress can cause poor regulation of hormones called glucocorticoids. This type of hormone includes cortisol, also known as the “stress hormone.” Chronic stress can cause chronically high levels of cortisol, which results in systemic inflammation. High levels of cortisol and inflammation have also been shown to harm bones.2
Catecholamines – Catecholamines are a group of stress hormones that include norepinephrine, epinephrine, and dopamine. Social stress triggers the release of these hormones, which activate hormone receptors on osteoblasts and osteoclasts— the cells that create new bone and remove old or damaged bone. The activation of these hormone receptors can accelerate bone loss.2
Insulin-like Growth Factor (IGF) – This compound is found in higher levels in people with depression and/or anxiety disorders. It also regulates the interactions between osteoblasts and osteoclasts. Research suggests that alterations in IGF-1 and 2 may bear some responsibility for the association between stress and bone loss.
Oxidative stress – Radical oxygen species (ROS) are known to damage cells in the bone remodeling process. ROS also damage neuronal cells and contribute to mental health conditions. Reducing oxidative stress can help protect bone mental health and bone health. One way to do that is by eating foods that are rich in antioxidants and by taking antioxidant supplements, such as Vitamin C (ascorbic acid).
Another study isolated several compounds that are implicated in both social stress and bone loss. They include glucocorticoids like cortisol, catecholamines, insulin-like growth factor, and radical oxygen species (ROS).
Interventions That Reduce Stress And Build Bone
The linear association between stress and bone loss makes it clear that by reducing stress you can protect bone mass. Because of the complex interconnectedness of our body and our brain function, some interventions that improve bone health can also improve mental health.
Excercise – Studies have shown that exercise programs improved symptoms in patients with anxiety, stress, and trauma-related disorders, with positive effects that lasted beyond the end of the program. As Savers know, exercise directly stimulates the formation of new bone mass, making it a powerful tool for building stronger bones.2
Calcium and Vitamin D – Supplementation with calcium and Vitamin D is well-known as a combination that supports bone health by providing the body with the most prominent building block of bone. This combination has also been shown to improve mental health, as both compounds are known to help prevent depression. 2
Magnesium – Magnesium is often-overlooked, but is an essential mineral for building strong bones. Studies have associated magnesium intake with increased bone mineral density and low magnesium levels with depression.2
Omega-3 Fatty Acids – The anti-inflammatory effects of Omega-3 fatty acids help protect bone. Fatty acid supplementation has been shown to have a positive effect on depression and anxiety. 2
The researchers identified natural interventions that can both reduce stress and build bone. They include getting exercise, calcium and Vitamin D, magnesium, and Omega-3 fatty acids.
What This Means To You
Any effective osteoporosis intervention must consider the mind-body connection. That's why the Osteoporosis Reversal Program includes the Osteoporosis Stress Management Guide. This guide helps you avoid the damage that chronic stress inflicts on your bone and general health. Inside the guide, you'll find a three-step 100% natural approach to stress management that you can adapt to your individual needs and circumstances and it's included as part of the Osteoporosis Reversal Program.
Unlike the Medical Establishment, the Save Institute has created a community of like-minded people who wish to reverse osteoporosis naturally. This social approach helps Savers find connections and support to decrease anxiety.
Additionally, our on-demand streaming video workout platform SaveTrainer includes guided relaxation, mindfulness, and meditation videos to help you find calm and reduce bone-damaging stress.
Your body and mind are complex and interconnected. That's one of the many reasons why singular quick-fix solutions– like drugs– can do more harm than good. Instead, keep pursuing a natural and integrative approach to bone health by combining positive changes to diet, exercise, and daily habits.