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Loneliness hurts not just men’s mental health — it may hurt their bones, too: study
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Social isolation, according to an expert, is associated with an increased risk for many health conditions, including mental disorders, as well as higher overall rates of illness and death.

Loneliness hurts not just men’s mental health — it may hurt their bones, too: study

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Loneliness is not just bad for men’s mental health — it may be bad for their bones, too, according to a new study. 

And while social isolation may have a negative impact on the bone health of men, this is not true of women, the researchers found. 

Dr. Rebecca Mountain, of Maine Health Institute for Research in Scarborough, Maine, was lead researcher on the study, as multiple outlets reported.

The study was presented on Sunday at ENDO 2023, the Endocrine Society’s annual meeting, in Chicago, Illinois.

“Social isolation is a potent form of psychosocial stress,” said Dr. Mountain in a statement, “and is a growing public health concern, particularly among older adults.”

She also said, “Even prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has significantly increased the prevalence of isolation and loneliness, researchers have been concerned about a rising ‘epidemic of loneliness,'” as SWNS reported.

Social isolation, she also said, is associated with an increased risk for many health conditions, including mental disorders, as well as higher overall rates of illness and death.

“Previous clinical research,” she said, “has demonstrated that psychosocial stressors, and subsequent mental health disorders, are major risk factors for osteoporosis and fracture, which disproportionally affect older adults.”


A new study found that loneliness can be bad for men’s mental health and bone health.Shutterstock

She added that the impacts of social isolation on “bone, however, have not been thoroughly investigated.”

In the study, researchers exposed adult mice to social isolation — meaning one mouse per cage — or grouped housing, with four mice per cage — for four weeks.

The scientists found that social isolation caused significant reductions in bone quality, including reduced bone mineral density, in the male mice — but not the female mice.

The article’s abstract indicated that “isolated male mice had signs of reduced bone remodeling represented by reduced osteoblast numbers [cells that form new bones], osteoblast-related gene expression and osteoclast-related gene expression. However, isolated females had increased bone resorption-related gene expression, without any change in bone mass.”

Dr. Mountain said, “Overall, our data suggest that social isolation has a dramatic negative effect on bone in male mice, but it may operate through different mechanisms or in a different time frame in female mice.”

She added, “Future research is needed to understand how these findings translate to human populations.”

She also said, “Our work provides critical insight into the effects of isolation on bone and has key clinical implications as we grapple with the long-term health impacts of the rise in social isolation related to the COVID-19 pandemic.” 


According to the study’s lead researcher, loneliness is a “form of psychosocial stress.”Shutterstock

The Endocrine Society is a global community of physicians and scientists “dedicated to accelerating scientific breakthroughs and improving patient health and well-being,” the group says on its website.

Maine Health Institute for Research, for its part, supports and encourages a “broad spectrum of research,” the group says on its site, “ranging from basic laboratory-based research through translational research, which works to apply basic discoveries to medical problems, to clinical research, which studies the direct application of new drugs, devices and treatment protocols to patients, to health services research which seeks to use research methods to help improve and evaluate health care delivery programs and new technologies.”

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