Psychological Distress Increases Cerebrovascular Death Risk

Simple General Health Questionnaire may have value in screening for psychological distress

MONDAY, June 18 (HealthDay News) -- Psychological distress, as assessed using the 12-item General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-12), is associated with an increased risk of death due to cerebrovascular disease and ischemic heart disease, according to a study published online June 18 in CMAJ, the journal of the Canadian Medical Association.

Mark Hamer, Ph.D., of the University College London, and colleagues collected data from 68,652 adults with no history of cardiovascular disease who participated in the Health Survey for England. Using the GHQ-12, they assessed the presence of psychological distress to evaluate the link between psychological distress and risk of death due to cerebrovascular disease.

The researchers found that, overall, 14.7 percent of participants had a GHQ-12 score of 4 or higher, suggestive of psychological distress. During the study, 2,367 deaths due to cardiovascular disease occurred. Participants with psychological distress had a 1.66-fold higher risk of death due to cerebrovascular disease and a 1.59-fold higher risk of death due to ischemic heart disease. Participants with a higher GHQ-12 score had an increased risk of cardiovascular or cerebrovascular death, indicating a dose-response effect.

"Psychological distress was associated with increased risk of death due to cerebrovascular disease in a large population-representative cohort," the authors write. "These data suggest that the cardiovascular effects of psychological distress are not limited to coronary artery disease."

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