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Psychological Distress Associated With a 28% Greater Risk of Heart Disease

November 07, 2022
by Elisabeth Reitman

Screening for psychological distress can significantly reduce cardiovascular disease risk and improve quality of life.

Self-reported psychological distress, defined as symptoms of depression, anxiety, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or perceived psychosocial stress, was associated with a 28% greater risk of cardiovascular morbidity and mortality, a meta-analysis finds.

Investigators from Yale and Brown University conducted a review using research published between 2017 – 2022 from over 600,000 patients and 28 studies on the association between psychological distress and the first diagnosis of cardiovascular disease (CVD). Psychological health screening may significantly reduce CVD risk and improve quality of life for patients at-risk for cardiovascular disease.

The study appears Nov. 7 in the Journal of Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation.

“Our investigation demonstrates the importance of psychological distress in cardiovascular risk, and that implementing routine psychological health screenings and clinical decision support should be a healthcare priority,” said Allison E. Gaffey, PhD, instructor of medicine and clinical psychologist, and the study’s lead author.

Current evidence suggests that women are more likely to not receive treatment for depression.

“Psychosocial assessment screening continues to be the exception rather than the standard of care. More work is needed to understand the role of life stress in risk for CVD, sex-specific associations, and to learn best practices for integrating behavioral health management in cardiology,” Gaffey said.

The study team included Emily E. Gathright, Lauren M. Fletcher, and Carly M. Goldstein from Brown University.

Our investigation demonstrates the importance of psychological distress in cardiovascular risk, and that implementing routine psychological health screenings and clinical decision support should be a healthcare priority.

Allison E. Gaffey, PhD

Gaffey is the recipient of a two-year Career Development Award from the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Research & Development.

Submitted by Elisabeth Reitman on November 07, 2022