Social Isolation And Loneliness Affects Bone Quality In Men, Study Shows

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According to a recent study, isolation and loneliness have a detrimental effect on both mental and physical health of individuals especially men. The study found that besides having a negative impact on mental health, loneliness can also affect bone health of men.

Social isolation a significant psychological stressor

Maine Health Institute of Research’s Dr Rebecca Mountain stated that social isolation has emerged as a powerful psychological and social stress factor, and its impact on public health is becoming more significant, especially for older adults. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, which has exacerbated the problem of isolation and loneliness, experts have been alarmed by the increasing prevalence of loneliness “epidemic.”

Studies show that social isolation may increase risk of several health conditions such as mental disorders and also increases mortality and cases of illness.

Mountain explained that past clinical studies have shown that psychosocial stressors an ensuing mental disorders are risk factors for fracture and osteoporosis, which are common among elderly. However, there is little research on the effect of isolation on bones.

A recent study conducted on mice examined the impact of social isolation on bone quality. Adult mice were divided into two groups: one group was housed alone, while the other group was housed in groups of four. The study lasted for four weeks.

Isolation leads to a decline in bone quality in men

The findings revealed that social isolation resulted in significant declines in bone quality for male mice, specifically reduced bone mineral density. However, female mice did not experience the same effects. The researchers suggest that further investigation is necessary to understand how these findings relate to humans.

Social isolation stress causes bone changes through glucocorticoid signaling alteration leading to increased glucocorticoids circulation especially cortisol. Use of glucocorticoids can result in glucocorticoids-induced osteoporosis which is characterized with a biphasic trend of bone resorption increase and reduced formation preceded by a phase of decreased formation and resorption. Also solation can act on the bones through increased sympathetic nervous system (SNS) activity. Stress activates the SNS which leads to increases in catecholamines that could reduce bone mass through beta-2 adrenergic signaling.

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