Researchers have found that happiness and overall satisfaction with life can lead to a host of health benefits, including a lower risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and even fewer colds and infections. New research focused on bone density has found that women age 60-70 who are satisfied with their lives have a higher bone density and suffer from osteoporosis less frequently than their unsatisfied peers.
Osteoporosis is a debilitating bone condition in which lower bone density leads to a greater risk of bone fracture. Hip fractures in particular can have devastating consequences. Bone density naturally decreases in both men and women with age, however for women the onset of menopause leads to an increased loss of bone density. Other risk factors include low levels of physical activity, light body composition, smoking, low intake of calcium and vitamin D, as well as some drugs and mental conditions. The new study aimed to discover how much life satisfaction and depression factored into the development of low bone density and eventual osteoporosis.
Earlier research has found that the long-term stress associated with depression can have detrimental effects on the metabolism, and, as a consequence, on bone health. The health behavior of a depressed person may also increase the risk of osteoporosis, as the person might be more likely to smoke or exercise too little.
The research was completed at the University of Eastern Finland. The data was obtained from the Kupio Osteoporosis Risk Factor and Prevention (OSTPRE) Study, which has been investigating the effects of various risk and protective factors on bone density and bone fractures since 1989. The new sub-study included 1,147 women who underwent bone density measurements in 1999 and follow-up measurements ten years later, in 2009. Their satisfaction with life was assessed based on their answers to four questions related to the participants’ interest in and easiness of life, happiness, and loneliness. Based on the answers, the participants were divided into three groups: the satisfied, the middle group, and the unsatisfied.
During the 10-year follow-up, the bone density of all study participants weakened by an average of 4 percent. However, the difference between the satisfied and the unsatisfied was as much as 52 percent. Changes in life satisfaction during the 10-year period also affected bone density. In participants whose life satisfaction decreased, bone density weakened by 85 percent in comparison to those whose life satisfaction improved.
The study researchers say that promoting general life satisfaction and good spirits in the elderly is as important as promoting healthy lifestyle choices, as good life satisfaction diminishes age-induced osteoporosis.
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