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Good Life Satisfaction Helps Keep Bones Healthy

By Rosemary Ann Ogilvie

Women aged 60 to 70 who are satisfied with their lives have a higher bone density and are less likely to suffer from osteoporosis than their unsatisfied peers, a new study from the University of Eastern Finland found.


Age brings about decreases in bone density, with menopause constituting a significant risk factor for osteoporosis, a disease we know easily results in bone fractures, with hip fractures in particular causing serious consequences. Other risk factors include:


  • Low levels of physical activity
  • Light body composition
  • Smoking
  • Low intake of calcium and vitamin D
  • Certain pharmaceutical drugs


Some medical conditions are also implicated. As an example, long-term stress associated with depression can have detrimental effects on metabolism and, in turn, on bone health. The health behaviour of a depressed person may also increase their risk of osteoporosis, as they might smoke or take too little exercise.


Subjective wellbeing is an extensive indicator of mental health – and depression in particular. This study used life satisfaction to measure subjective wellbeing, with the objective of determining whether life satisfaction is also associated with bone health.


The data were drawn from the Kuopio Osteoporosis Risk Factor and Prevention (OSTPRE) Study, which since 1989 has been investigating the effects of various risk and protective factors on bone density and bone fractures. Participants responded to mail surveys designed to assess life satisfaction through four questions relating to the interest in and easiness of life; happiness; and loneliness. Based on the answers, the study participants were divided into three groups:


  • the satisfied
  • the middle group, and
  • the unsatisfied


Participants also underwent bone-density measurements. The present sub-study included 2167 women whose bone density was measured in 1999; of these, 1147 took part in follow-up measurements a decade later, in 2009.


During the 10-year follow-up, the bone density of all study participants weakened by an average of four percent. However, the difference between the satisfied and the unsatisfied was as much as 52 per cent.


Bone density was also affected by changes in life satisfaction during the 10-year follow-up: in people whose life satisfaction deteriorated, bone density weakened by 85 percent in comparison to those whose life satisfaction improved.


Hence, life satisfaction is an important resource and an indicator of wellbeing. Life satisfaction has been linked to health, and dissatisfaction is a predictor of incapacity for work, illness and mortality. This study shows it’s also associated with bone health, as good life satisfaction diminishes age-induced osteoporosis.


The study researchers say that promoting good life satisfaction and good spirits in older people is as important as promoting healthy lifestyle choices. Individual factors maintaining and improving life satisfaction also have beneficial effects on bone health.


Written for the Australian Traditional-Medicine Society (ATMS) by Rosemary Ann Ogilvie from materials released by the University of Eastern Finland.


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Rosemary Ann Ogilvie