Women With Depression At Risk For Osteoporosis

A study from the National Institute of Mental Health has found that women who suffer from depression are more likely to enter menopause with an increased risk of bone fractures. Researchers report that 17% of women with depression had decreased bone mass in the femoral neck, compared to 2% of women who did not have depression. Additionally, low bone mass in the lumbar spine was found in 20% of depressed women, compared to 9% who were not depressed. The researchers theorized that women with depression have overactive immune systems that produce a chemical known as IL-6. This chemical is associated with bone loss as well as promoting inflammation. During adolescence, bone mass reaches its peak and begins to decline through the rest of life, thinning at a faster rate after a woman undergoes menopause.

The study involved 133 women aged 21 to 45 years; 89 were depressed and 44 were not. All of the women were exposed to the same risk factors, all sharing similar intakes of calcium, caffeine, alcohol, tobacco, and oral contraceptives. The scientists found that hip bones in depressed women were especially vulnerable to thinning. This bone fracture is more frequent among elderly people with osteoporosis and can put an individual at a greater risk of costly, and sometimes fatal, fractures.

 NIMH Deputy Director Dr. Richard Nakamura states, "Now we know that depression can serve as a red flag- that depressed women are more likely than other women to approach menopause already at higher risk of fractures." Researchers believe the immune-system imbalance experienced by some depressed women may be linked to excessive adrenalin production, which is known to over stimulate the immune system.


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