June 19, 2012

Psychological distress increases risk of death from stroke

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Over 800,000 people die in the U.S. each year from cardiovascular disease and strokes. Stroke is also a leading cause of serious long term disability. Now, a new study shows a link between psychological distress and death from stroke.

Psychological distress is common in approximately 15-20% of the general population and includes factors such as anxiety, depression, sleeping problems, and loss of confidence.

Researchers from the University College in London, United Kingdom, sought to understand a link between psychological distress and death from stroke and looked at data from a large study of 68,652 men and women who participated in the Health Survey for England. The approximate age of participants was 55 years.

To measure psychological distress, the researchers used the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-12), a widely used measure in population studies. Psychological distress was evident in 14.7% of participants, and those reporting distress were younger and more likely to be female, to be from lower income groups, to smoke and to use hypertension medications. Over an average of 8 years' of follow-up, there were 2,367 deaths from cardiovascular disease.

"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," Dr. Mark Hamer, Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, UCL, was quoted saying.

The researchers suggest that these questionnaires could be useful screening tools for common mental illnesses to help reduce risk factors for death from cardiovascular disease.

Source: The Canadian Medical Association Journal, June 2012