According to a new Scottish study, being exposed to even a low level of psychological distress could lead in the long term to the development of cardiovascular disease or arthritis.
It is well known, psychological distress is at the origin of many evils. But if science has long ago established that being very depressed could lead to cardiovascular disease, arthritis or diabetes, it would seem that even a low level of distress could have deleterious long-term health impacts. , according to a new study Scottish study published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research in June.
Thanks to a center gathering data on the health, well-being and lifestyle of British citizens, researchers at the University of Edinburgh studied the information of 16,485 adults over a three-year period. They looked for links between psychological distress and the development of chronic diseases such as arthritis, diabetes, lung cancer, and cardiovascular disease, and also looked at whether such associations could be explained by changing factors such as eating habits. exercise, smoking, or the socio-economic status of the people studied.
As a result, compared to patients who had no symptoms of psychological distress, those who had low levels of distress were 57% more likely to develop inflammatory rheumatism. In addition, those who reported a moderate and high level of distress were 72% and 110% more exposed respectively.
Moreover, participants with low levels of distress were 46% more likely to develop cardiovascular risks, while those who reported moderate and strong levels were + 77% and + 189%, respectively.
Finally, if it seems that a low level of distress has no impact on lung cancer, a moderate level and a high level would respectively increase the chances of developing such a disease by 125% and 148% respectively. Researchers, on the other hand, found no link between psychological distress and the development of diabetes.
"An important discovery that could have significant clinical implications"
"Also, intervening to reduce the symptoms of depression and anxiety may help prevent the development of disease for some people," says one of the authors of the study, Professor Catherine Gale, of the University of Southampton. "Studying the distress could help identify patients at risk of developing rheumatism, lung cancer, or cardiovascular disease, so helping to overcome the distress could limit disease progression, even for very depressed people. ", she says, encouraging doctors to always take into account the psychological health of their patients.
As distress is a potentially modifiable factor, if the links found in this study are confirmed by more in-depth research, it could pave the way for new preventive strategies for chronic diseases, say other scientists. Indeed, for Professor Cyrus Cooper of the UK Medical Research Council, these discoveries have "the potential to have a major impact on the prevention of chronic diseases". Dr. Ian Simpson, former president of the British Cardiovascular Society, concludes: "Cardiovascular disease remains one of the leading causes of death and disability, so knowing that distress, even at a low level, is also a risk factor, is an important finding that could have significant clinical implications. "
In people without psychiatric disorders, psychological distress usually occurs following one or more traumatic events. This is a process during which signs of stress and anxiety appear. Its manifestations are physical (insomnia, fatigue, muscle pain, migraines), cognitive (attention disorders, difficulty concentrating), emotional (anger, irritability, sadness, excitability) and behavioral (social isolation or alcohol abuse, by example).