People suffering from anxiety, depression, sleeplessness or other forms of psychological distress are at greater risk of death from a stroke, according to a new study.
Researchers from University College London pointed out that psychological distress affects about 15 percent to 20 percent of the general population. Previous research has linked these common mental conditions with coronary artery disease, but an association with stroke and other cardiovascular diseases has not been established, they said.
The researchers examined information from a study of 68,652 adults who participated in the Health Survey for England. The vast majority of participants were white, 45 percent were men and the average was about 55.
Nearly 15 percent of the people questioned said they were affected by psychological distress, most of them women. Those who reported having psychological distress also tended to be younger, smokers and taking medication for high blood pressure. They also tended to have lower incomes, the researchers added.
After following the participants for an average of about eight years, the study's authors found 2,367 deaths from ischemic heart disease (blocked artery), stroke and other cardiovascular problems.
The study was published June 18 in CMAJ.
"Psychological distress was associated with death from cardiovascular disease, and the relation remained consistent for specific disease outcomes, including ischemic heart disease and cerebrovascular disease," Dr. Mark Hamer, of the college department of epidemiology and public health, and his co-authors said in a journal news release. "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. This association was similar in size to the association between psychological distress and ischemic heart disease in the same group."
The researchers concluded that questionnaires could help doctors screen their patients for common mental illnesses, which could reduce their risk of death from heart disease and stroke.