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Psychological distress as a risk factor for death from cerebrovascular disease

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journal contribution
posted on 30.10.2015 by Mark Hamer, Mika Kivimaki, Emmanuel Stamatakis, G. David Batty
Background: Little is known about psychological risk factors in cerebrovascular disease. We examined the association between psychological distress and risk of death due to cerebrovascular disease. Methods: We obtained data from 68 652 adult participants of the Health Survey for England (mean age 54.9 [standard deviation 13.9] yr, 45.0% male sex) with no known history of cardiovascular diseases at baseline. We used the 12-item General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-12) to assess the presence of psychological distress. We followed participants for eight years for cause-specific death using linkage to national registers. Results: There were 2367 deaths due to cardiovascular disease during follow-up. Relative to participants with no symptoms of psychological distress (GHQ-12 score 0) at baseline, people with psychological disress (GHQ-12 score ≥ 4, 14.7% of participants) had an increased risk of death from cerebrovascular disease (adjusted hazard ratio [HR] 1.66, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.32–2.08) and ischemic heart disease (adjusted HR 1.59, 95% CI 1.34–1.88). There was also evidence of a dose–response effect with increasing GHQ-12 score (p for trend < 0.001 in all analyses). Associations were only marginally attenuated after we adjusted for possible confounders, including socioeconomic status, smoking and use of antihypertensive medications. Interpretation: Psychological distress was associated with increased risk of death due to cerebrovascular disease in a large population representative cohort. These data suggest that the cardiovascular effects of psychological distress are not limited to coronary artery disease.



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Canadian Medical Association journal


HAMER, M. al., 2012. Psychological distress as a risk factor for death from cerebrovascular disease. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 184(13), pp. 1461-1466.


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