Stress has a negative effect on the bones

Stress has a negative effect on the bones

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Psychological stress has a negative impact on bone metabolism

A recent study showed that psychological stress has a negative impact on bone metabolism. In previous scientific studies, researchers found that chronic psychosocial stress massively impedes bone healing.

As the University of Potsdam reports in a communication, a research team led by the Potsdam sports and health sociologist Prof. Dr. Pia-Maria Wippert found that acute and chronic stress “drive us” into the bones in the long term. In a study, the researchers were able to demonstrate that a longer physiological load such as chronic stress or early childhood trauma still has a negative effect years later on how our bone metabolism can adapt to high stress loads. The results were published in the medical journal "Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics".

Bone metabolism adapts to increased stress

In a first step, the scientists found that bone metabolism adapts to the increased stress during an acute episode of depression. In a second step, the research team was able to show that this adjustment - regardless of gender - turns out to be different and that the reasons for this can be found in the biographical burden on a person.

Specifically, people with a high physiological load, for example due to chronic stress, have no or only anabolic adaptation that is reduced. People who have experienced early childhood trauma in turn show an excessive anabolic reaction due to the associated higher stress reactivity during a depression episode. The risk of lower bone mineral density increases with both types of biographical exposure.

"The differentiation of a different metabolic adaptation along the biographical risk burden will have important consequences in the treatment of depressed patients with regard to medication and forms of therapy," said Pia-Maria Wippert. "This finding could be an important step in the prevention of age-related diseases such as osteoporosis, arthrosis and march fractures."

Change in bones

Pia-Maria Wippert and her Potsdam colleague Karin Würtz-Kozak had already started in 2015 to investigate the interactions between depression, neuroendocrine stress reactions and bone metabolism. In the first bone microstructure analyzes on mice that had previously been exposed to early childhood stress, they succeeded in showing changes in the bones, for example with regard to neuronal structures. In exchange with various specialists, they carried out further examinations and checked the parameters identified in the animal experiment using blood samples from a human study (DEPREHA).

Bone healing is hampered

Other scientific studies had already shown that stress can have a negative effect on the bones. A research team from the University of Ulm, together with colleagues from California, found that chronic psychosocial stress interferes with the healing of broken bones. Her study was published a few months ago in the journal "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences" (PNAS). (ad)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


  • University of Potsdam: Stress makes rotten bones - study shows that psychological stress has a negative impact on bone metabolism, (accessed: October 29, 2019), University of Potsdam
  • Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics: Alterations in Bone Homeostasis and Microstructure Related to Depression and Allostatic Load, (accessed: October 29, 2019), Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics
  • Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS): Chronic psychosocial stress compromises the immune response and endochondral ossification during bone fracture healing via β-AR signaling, (accessed: October 29, 2019), Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS)

Video: Stress Fractures Of The Metatarsal Bones - Everything You Need To Know - Dr. Nabil Ebraheim (November 2022).