Department of Pharmacology, Faculty of Medicine, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Cheras 56000, Malaysia.
Chronic psychological stress affects many body systems, including the skeleton, through various mechanisms. This review aims to provide an overview of the factors mediating the relationship between psychological stress and bone health. These factors can be divided into physiological and behavioural changes induced by psychological stress. The physiological factors involve endocrinological changes, such as increased glucocorticoids, prolactin, leptin and parathyroid hormone levels and reduced gonadal hormones. Low-grade inflammation and hyperactivation of the sympathetic nervous system during psychological stress are also physiological changes detrimental to bone health. The behavioural changes during mental stress, such as altered dietary pattern, cigarette smoking, alcoholism and physical inactivity, also threaten the skeletal system. Psychological stress may be partly responsible for epigenetic regulation of skeletal development. It may also mediate the relationship between socioeconomic status and bone health. However, more direct evidence is required to prove these hypotheses. In conclusion, chronic psychological stress should be recognised as a risk factor of osteoporosis and stress-coping methods should be incorporated as part of the comprehensive osteoporosis-preventing strategy.
Keywords: cortisol, hormones, mental stress, osteopenia, osteoporosis