Psychological distress affects about 15 to 20 percent of the general population, according to the researchers. Earlier research has tied these common mental conditions with coronary artery disease, but an association with stroke and other cardiovascular diseases has not been proven, they said.
For the study, the team reviewed information from a study of 68,652 adults who participated in the Health Survey for England. Most of the participants were white, 45 percent were men and the average age was about 55.
Almost 15 percent of the participants said they had experienced psychological distress — most of them women.
Those under psychological distress were typically participants who were younger, smoking or 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 researchers found 2,367 deaths from ischemic heart disease (blocked artery), stroke and other cardiovascular conditions.
“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,” said Dr. Mark Hamer, of the college department of epidemiology and public health.
“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 believe that questionnaires could help doctors screen their patients for common mental illnesses, which could help lower their risk of death from heart disease and stroke.
The study is published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.
Source: University College London