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Mental health problems linked to death risk
[Posted: Wed 01/08/2012 by Gillian Tsoi www.irishhealth.com]
People with anxiety or depression, commonly referred to as psychological distress, may be at a higher risk of death, warned researchers in the UK.
This death risk was raised even at lower levels of distress that would not usually come to the attention of mental health services, according to a recent study by a team from University College London and the University of Edinburgh.
They set out to measure the role of psychological distress as a risk factor for death from all causes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and external causes.
They studied over 68,000 adults aged 35 years and over, who took part in the Health Survey for England from 1994 to 2004.
Psychological distress was measured using a recognised scale ranging from no symptoms to severe symptoms of stress and anxiety. Death certificates were used to record causes of death.
"We found that psychological distress was a risk factor for death from all causes, cardiovascular disease, and external causes-the greater the distress, the higher the risk," said Dr Tom Russ, the lead author of the study
"However, even people with low distress scores were at an increased risk of death."
Dr David Batty, senior author of the study commented: "These associations also remained after taking into account other factors such as weight, exercise, smoking, alcohol consumption and diabetes. Therefore this increased
mortality is not simply the result of people with higher levels of psychological distress smoking or drinking more, or taking less exercise."
The study is the largest so far to show a dose-response relation between psychological distress and mortality and has potentially important implications for treatment, say the authors.
According to the researchers, the fact that a higher risk of death was seen even at low levels of psychological distress, further investigations should be made into whether treatment of these very common, minor symptoms can modify this increased risk of death.
The study was published online in the British Medical Journal.
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