By Natasha Persaud

Psychological distress may increase the chances of dying from stroke, suggests a Canadian study published in CMAJ. Previous research has examined stress and heart disease. In this study, researchers hoped to clarify whether stress also hurts the brain.

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For the study, researchers examined data on nearly 70,000 British men and women with no history of cardiovascular disease. Participants completed a questionnaire about their mental health called the GHQ-12 that included items on anxiety, depression, social dysfunction and loss of confidence.

Over 8 years of follow-up, about 2,400 people or 15 percent died from heart disease, stroke or related diseases. Stressed-out participants appeared to have a 66 percent higher chance of stroke and a 59 percent higher chance of heart disease. Greater distress appeared to confer higher risks.

It’s possible that other factors may explain the apparent connection, such as an underlying disease that contributes to both stress and stroke, according to the study authors. More research is needed to clarify the relationship.

In the meantime, it doesn’t hurt to take steps to dial down your stress. Start with these 10 coping tips.


Hamer, et al. Psychological Distress as a Risk Factor for Death from Cerebrovascular Disease. CMAJ. Published online on June 18, 2012.

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at

Published: 19 Jun 2012

Last Modified: 05 Mar 2015