Depression, Anxiety and Your Risk of Stroke

Risk of death from stroke linked to psychological distress

(RxWiki News) There is a lot of evidence suggesting that coronary heart disease is linked to psychological distress symptoms like anxiety and depression. However, it may be that heart disease is not the only risk.

A new study suggests that those who are affected by anxiety, depression, sleep problems, and loss of confidence may be more likely to die due to a stroke (cerebrovascular disease) than those who do not suffer from psychological distress.

"Get screened to assess your risk of cardiovascular disease."

The study was led by Mark Hamer, PhD, of the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at University College London.

"We saw an association between psychological distress and risk of cerebrovascular disease among our participants, all of whom had been free from cardiovascular disease at baseline," write the authors. "This association was similar in size to the association between psychological distress and ischemic heart disease in the same group."

The study’s 68,652 participants came from the Health Survey for England. Of those, 45 percent were male and 96 percent were Caucasian.

The researchers used the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-12), a commonly used measure of psychological distress, to assess the psychological well-being of the participants. Additionally, they collected data on smoking status, alcohol consumption, physical activity, socioeconomic status and body mass index.

Those reporting psychological distress were more likely to be women, come from a lower income class, smoke and use antihypertensive medications.

During their follow-up period, which lasted 8 years on average, there were 1,010 deaths due to heart disease, 562 from stroke and 795 other cardiovascular related deaths.

The researchers found that those who died were likely to be suffering from psychological distress.

“We saw an association between psychological distress and risk of death from cerebrovascular disease,” write the authors. “Our data suggest that questionnaires such as the GHQ-12 could be of value in systematic screening aimed at improving the recognition of common mental disorders for reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.”

The study was published June 18, 2012 in the Canadian Medical Association Journal and was funded by the British Heart Foundation and the UK National Health Service Information Centre for Health and Social Care. The study authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
June 14, 2012