Chronic Psychological Stress as a Risk Factor of Osteoporosis

J UOEH. 2015 Dec 1;37(4):245-53. doi: 10.7888/juoeh.37.245.


Osteoporosis, the most common metabolic skeletal disease, is characterized by decreased bone mass and deteriorated bone quality, leading to increased fracture risk. With the aging of the population, osteoporotic fracture is an important public health issue. Organisms are constantly exposed to various stressful stimuli that affect physiological processes. Recent studies showed that chronic psychological stress is a risk factor for osteoporosis by various signaling pathways. The purpose of this article is to review the recent progress of the association between chronic psychological stress and osteoporosis. Increasing evidence confirms the physiological importance of the central nervous system, especially the hypothalamus, in the regulation of bone metabolism. Both animal and human studies indicate that chronic psychological stress induces a decrease of bone mass and deterioration of bone quality by influencing the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical (HPA) axis, sympathetic nervous system, and other endocrine, immune factors. Active mastication, proven to be an effective stress-coping behavior, can attenuate stress-induced neuroendocrine responses and ameliorate stress-induced bone loss. Therefore, active mastication may represent a useful approach in preventing and/or treating chronic stress-associated osteoporosis. We also discuss several potential mechanisms involved in the interaction between chronic stress, mastication and osteoporosis. Chronic stress activates the HPA axis and sympathetic nervous system, suppresses the secretion of gonadal hormone and growth hormone, and increases inflammatory cytokines, eventually leading to bone loss by inhibiting bone formation and stimulating bone resorption.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bone Resorption / etiology
  • Chronic Disease
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Gonadal Hormones / metabolism
  • Growth Hormone / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Hypothalamo-Hypophyseal System / physiology
  • Inflammation Mediators / metabolism
  • Mastication / physiology
  • Osteogenesis
  • Osteoporosis / etiology*
  • Osteoporosis / prevention & control
  • Risk Factors
  • Stress, Psychological / complications*
  • Stress, Psychological / physiopathology*
  • Stress, Psychological / prevention & control
  • Sympathetic Nervous System / physiology


  • Cytokines
  • Gonadal Hormones
  • Inflammation Mediators
  • Growth Hormone