Psychosocial distress associated with increased stroke risk

People over age 65 with high psychosocial distress face increased risk of stroke, according to new research in the American Heart Association journal Stroke.

Psychosocial distress is a broad concept that includes depression, stress, a and dissatisfaction with life.

In their 10-year study, researchers followed 4,120 people in the Chicago Health and Aging Project for rates of death and stroke incidents. Due to some participants being involved in an HMO only 2,649 participants were analyzed for rates of incident stroke. Participants were 65 years and older (average age 77, 62 percent women, 61 percent African American). Researchers identified 151 deaths from stroke and 452 events that led to first-time hospitalization for stroke.

Those with the most psychosocial distress had three times the risk of death from stroke and a 54 percent increased risk of first hospitalization from stroke compared to those least distressed.

The impact of psychosocial distress on stroke risk did not differ by race or by sex, researchers said.

"People should be aware that stress and often increase with age," said Susan Everson-Rose, Ph.D., M.P.H., study senior author and associate professor of medicine and associate director of the Program in Health Disparities Research at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. "Family members and caregivers need to recognize these emotions have a profound effect on health."

In a separate analysis, researchers found a striking association between psychosocial distress and risk of hemorrhagic stroke (bleeding), but not (caused by blood clot).

"There was about 70 percent excess risk for each unit increase in distress that wasn't explained by known ," Everson-Rose said. "So there must be other biologic pathways at play linking distress to in particular."

The researchers measured psychosocial distress by four indicators: perceived stress, life dissatisfaction, neuroticism and depressive symptoms. They used standardized rating scales to determine the score of each indicator, such as the 6-item Perceived Stress Scale. For each indicator, higher scores represent a higher level of psychosocial distress. A distress factor score was based on averaging the values of the psychosocial measures. For the study, researchers conducted in-depth interviews in homes in three stable neighborhoods on the south side of Chicago representing African-Americans and Caucasians from the same socio-economic spectrum. The interviews covered medical history, cognitive function, socioeconomic status, behavioral patterns, traditional risk factors for stroke and psychosocial characteristics.

Stroke deaths were verified by the National Death Index and stroke hospitalizations were based on Medicare claims from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

"It's important to pay attention when older people complain of distress and recognize that these symptoms have physical effects on health outcome and clearly affect stroke risk," Everson-Rose said.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Study: Secondary stroke prevention needs improvement

Feb 15, 2010

New research finds that one out of 12 people who have a stroke will likely soon have another stroke, and one out of four will likely die within one year. Researchers say the findings highlight the vital need for better secondary ...

Cholesterol-lowering drugs and the risk of hemorrhagic stroke

Dec 12, 2007

People taking cholesterol-lowering drugs such as atorvastatin after a stroke may be at an increased risk of hemorrhagic stroke, or bleeding in the brain, a risk not found in patients taking statins who have never had a stroke. ...

Total hip replacement surgery may increase risk of stroke

Nov 08, 2012

Risk of ischemic stroke increases by nearly 4.7-fold and hemorrhagic stroke 4.4-fold during the first two weeks after total hip replacement surgery, according to new research in the American Heart Association journal Stroke. ...

Recommended for you

New drugs from fish oil could aid artery repair

11 hours ago

Every year, more than a half-million Americans undergo procedures to have a narrowed coronary artery propped open with a small metal mesh tube, or stent. The procedure is common for certain patients who've ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.