Is Depression a Risk Factor for Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis refers to a condition of decreased bone density. This can present significant problems and can cause bones to fracture easily, resulting in increased healthcare needs, especially for elderly individuals. Bone mass density develops during adolescence and young adulthood and the more bone density a person acquires during that time, the better their chances of being protected from future bone density erosion. However, mental health issues often develop during this same time period.

Depression is one such issue that has been examined in association with bone density. In fact, some existing research has suggested that people with depression are more likely to have lower bone density than those without depression. But much of the existing literature on this topic uses data from older adults. To determine how bone density and depression are linked, and if one affects the other during early adulthood, Sun Min Oh of the Department of Preventive Medicine at the Yonsei University College of Medicine in the Republic of Korea recently led a study examining a bone stiffness index (SI) of 133 Korean women and 123 Korean men between the ages of 29 and 32. The participants were also assessed for depression.

The results revealed that bone stiffness levels were directly associated with depression scores in the male participants. Overall, Oh found that nearly 12% of the men and 20% of the women had clinical symptoms of depression.  And although bone density was lower in all the depressed participants, it was only slightly weaker in the women but significantly weaker in the men.

One reason for this finding could be the difference in hormones between men and women. Another could be the fact that men’s bone density levels peak at around age 30 and then decrease, while female bone density levels peak in the fifth decade of life and then decrease rapidly. Regardless of the obvious ways in which gender impacts bone density, the results clearly support a link between depression and bone density deterioration.

Because of the debilitating effect both depression and osteoporosis can have, Oh hopes these results highlight the necessity of early intervention for both medical conditions. Oh added, “Further studies are necessary to evaluate the impact of depression on developing osteoporosis or osteoporotic fractures later in life.”

Oh, S.M., Kim, H.C., Kim, K.M., Ahn, S.V., Choi, D.P., et al. (2013). Association between depressive symptoms and bone stiffness index in young adults: The Kangwha Study. PLoS ONE 8(7): e69929. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0069929

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  • natalia


    August 8th, 2013 at 11:11 AM

    Don’t think that you should necessarily just look at older patients because they would tend to have lower bone density and therefore a greater risk for osteoporosis in the first place. There would need to be a better way, say looking at younger oatients too? to guage whether these two things could have a greater chance of developing together or if this is just an age conincidence.

  • D.K


    August 9th, 2013 at 12:20 AM

    There is no one bad thing that depression brings with it.There are many.I think depression is grossly underrated in terms of the effects it can have on health.This is mainly because of the perception.

    Sad?Then you can say you are depressed…not!Depression is more than just being temporarily sad about minor things.It can have major effects on health and as seen from this study it can really make things hard in later years.

  • Jonathan


    August 9th, 2013 at 4:30 AM

    One of the biggest wake up calls for me regarding this is that I never really give much though to loss of bone density being a male problem to begin with. This is something that I think that only mainly women are faced with, so to learn that this can also be a problem as men age as well, and that it can be even greater when one is alos suffering with depression is a real eye opener. I hope that geriatric practitioners are really staying on top of so much of this kind of new and emerging information. As their patients live longer then they are naturally going to need to extend their quality of life as well, and not just the longevity. This overall health tie plays a huge role in that and is something that holistically I thnk that a lot of patients will come to appreciate and expect from theri providers.

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