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Anxious about your bones?

Created date

July 23rd, 2018
A woman stares into space, looking worried.

A woman stares into space, looking worried.

Anxiety disorders affect millions of Americans and can take a toll on many areas of physical and emotional health. A new study shows this emotional disorder may also affect the health of your bones.

In previous studies, anxiety in postmenopausal women has been linked to an increased risk for gastrointestinal disorders, heart disease, and a risk for osteoporosis. Almost one-fourth of women over age 65 have osteoporosis.

Anxiety’s relationship to osteoporosis

Measuring bone mineral density is how osteoporosis is diagnosed. Bones with low mineral density are prone to fracture. In the current study, published by the North American Menopause Society’s journal Menopause, bone mineral density was measured in the lumbar spine and the top part of the femur where it connects to the hip in order to assess the risk of fracture among postmenopausal study participants. The women in the study were also assessed for anxiety via a scoring system.

Researchers found that women with low anxiety scores had a better bone mineral density and thus a lower risk of fractures than women who had high anxiety scores. Researchers are not sure exactly why anxiety affects bones, but it might have something to do with how stress is associated with hormones and other circulating compounds in the blood that affect bone health.

More studies are needed, but researchers believe their results indicate that women with anxiety disorders may benefit from osteoporosis screening, especially if they have other risk factors for fractures such as smoking, early-onset menopause, and steroid use.