Findings published in the American Heart Association journal, Stroke reveal that happiness may truly be the secret to good health.
Scientists from the University of Minnesota, U.S. have discovered that middle-aged and older adults who are stressed, hostile and depressed have a very high chance of having a stroke.
Hostility alone more than doubled the likelihood of having a ‘mini’ stroke (transient ishaemic attack) or full-blown stroke, whilst depression increased the risk by 86%.
Chronic stress is the lower risk factor of the three, but still accounted for a high 56%.
These results were reached following a study that involved 6,700 men and women aged between 45 and 84.
Scientists gave each participant a questionnaire to assess depressive symptoms, chronic stress, anger and hostility.
It was found that over a period of eight-and-a-half to 11 years, 147 strokes and 48 transient ishaemic attacks (TIAs) occurred – and psychological characteristics seemed to played a significant role.
Study leader, Dr Susan Everson-Rose said: “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.
“Given our ageing population, it’s important to consider these other factors that might play a role in disease risk.”
Every year in the UK approximately 152,000 strokes occur and they are particularly common among the elderly.
Understanding what can influence the risk of stroke as people age is vital for developing preventative measures, and it is coping strategies that Dr Emerson-Rose is hoping to explore in future studies.
“If someone is experiencing depressive symptoms or feeling a lot of stress or hostility, we don’t know how they manage those, so it’s possible that positive coping strategies could ameliorate some of these associations or effects,” she said.
“We did not inquire about coping. I would say that’s one of the tasks for future studies.”