If you ever wanted a compelling reason to join a group or get out more, here it is: A new study shows that poor social relationships contribute to bone loss in senior women.
This wasn’t a small, brief study. In this Women’s Health Initiative, researchers studied the bone health of 11,000 women over six years and included information about social support and social functioning.
The bottom line: Over those six years, high social stress equated to lowered bone mineral density in the femoral neck — where most hip fractures occur — the lumbar spine and the whole hip. They assigned a rating to levels of “social strain,” and found that each additional point added to the lowered bone density.
There’s more to this than how many groups we meet with each week. It turns out it’s the quality of our relationships rather than the quantity. Life satisfaction and our sense of optimism play a part, which might well be tied in with the quality of the relationships we do have.
That’s scary, and for those of us who don’t have much time for socializing, it serves as a wakeup call. What are we going to do about it?
The first thing that comes to mind is any activity that encourages interaction with others. Even a weekly reading group at the library, with participants commenting on the book they read and adding thoughts to others’ comments, has the potential to evolve further into coffee afterward, phone numbers swapped and invitations to other activities.
The same goes for dog walking at the animal shelter, bus trips with the senior center, walking clubs around town, board-games night at the library and neighborhood yard sales.
As a place to look for local activities, search online for the Red Hat Society at www.redhatsociety.com.