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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