Friday, July 11, 2014

Harsh Thoughts: Cynicism Linked to Stroke Risk


Middle-age and older people who are highly stressed, have depression or who are perhaps even just cynical may be at increased risk of stroke, according to new research.

In the study, more than 6,700 healthy adults ages 45 to 84 completed questionnaires about their stress levels, depressive symptoms, feelings of anger, and hostility, which is a measure of holding cynical views about other people. The researchers then followed the participants for eight to 11 years, and looked at the relationship between these psychological factors and people's risk of having a stroke.

"There's such a focus on traditional risk factors — cholesterol levels, blood pressure, smoking and so forth. And those are all very important, but studies like this one show that psychological characteristics are equally important," said study researcher Susan Everson-Rose, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. 

By the end of the study period, about 200 strokes had occurred. The researchers found that people with high levels of cynicism were more than twice as likely to have a stroke compared with their less cynical counterparts.

The researchers also found that people with the most symptoms of depression were 86 percent more likely to have a stroke during the study compared with people with the lowest number of depressive symptoms. Similarly, people who had chronic stress were 59 percent more likely to have a stroke compared to stress-free participants.

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