By Megan Rauscher

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Depressed older women appear to lose bone at a faster rate than their non-depressed counterparts, new research shows. "These findings suggest that physicians should consider the presence of depression when deciding when to recommend bone mineral density testing for their older patients," study leader Dr. Susan J. Diem told Reuters Health.

Dr. Diem, from the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis and a multicenter U.S. team determined depressive symptoms and took two hip BMD measurements an average of 4.4 years apart in 4,177 women aged 69 and older participating in the Study of Osteoporotic Fractures. The findings are reported in the June issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

"We found that depressive symptoms were associated with greater rates of bone loss in a group of older women (average age about 75 years old); the more depressive symptoms women had, the greater their rates of bone loss," Dr. Diem noted.

In age-adjusted models, mean total hip BMD fell 0.96% per year in 200 women with depression, as defined by a Geriatric Depression Scale score of 6 or greater, compared with 0.69% per year in 3,977 non-depressed women with a GDS score of less than 6 (p < 0.01).

"This association persisted after controlling for multiple potential confounders and after excluding users of antidepressant medications," the investigators report.

Prior studies have shown an increased risk of fractures in association with depression. "The mechanism of this association is unclear, but the finding of greater rates of bone loss in depressed subjects suggests that this may be a factor in the observed association with fractures," Dr. Diem and colleagues write.

They call for further research to confirm their observations and "to clarify the effect of specific treatments for depression on the rate of bone loss in depressed people."

J Am Geriatr Soc 2007;55:824-831.