You’ve likely heard that exercise, calcium, vitamin D, and movement can help maintain strong, dense bones. But new research is saying your social life may play a significant role in bone health too.
The long-term study followed more than 11,000 post-menopausal women in the United States and found that low levels of social activity, negative social interactions, and poor-quality relationships were associated with lower bone mineral density in the hip and lower back.
Lower bone mineral density can increase the risk of fractures, osteopenia, and osteoporosis while also inhibiting mobility and reducing quality of life.
The researchers described low levels of social activity and negative social interactions and relationships under an umbrella called “social stress.” Social stress was ranked on a scale from 4 to 20, where higher scores indicated more strain.
Each additional point was associated with a .11 percent loss of total hipbone density (.08 percent in the ball and socket joint) and a .07 percent loss in lower back density.
The study, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, could not prove that social strain and connections caused bone loss. It did show a strong relationship and might be yet another physical manifestation of stress and loneliness.
A lack of positive and meaningful social connection can do more than just make a person feel lonely. It may lead to greater overall stress, less mobility, and less overall activity. Quality relationships and active social circles appear to have benefits for physical, mental, and emotional health, and may help to maintain stronger, denser bones.
If you feel like you lack quality relationships in your life, examining ways to improve or increase social activity is worthwhile. For some, it may mean looking to neighbors, friends, and loved ones to grow closer to. For others, it may be getting involved in communities of like-minded people. Pursuing conversation with others in areas of interest can be the foundation for high-quality social ties and new friendships
Maximizing your good relationships and limiting the bad ones seems to have benefit. So, if you’ve got a friend who always drags you down with negativity, focus on limiting their role in your life and spending more time with the people who make you feel good. Building a social schedule—classes, meetups, clubs, etc.—can all help reduce social stress, improve social activity, and hopefully create stronger bones.