Whether it is pressure at work, tension at home, or anxiety at the bank, stress affects everyone, but it is important that stress be managed, rather than ignored. Several studies from the last few decades have demonstrated that stress can result in some particularly insalubrious issues ranging from diabetes to cardiovascular disease. According to a recent study from Inserm’s (Institut national de la santé et de la recherché médicale—The National Institute of Health and Medical Research) Epidemiology and Public Health Research Centre, mitigating the effects of stress is even more critical than previously thought.

This study, lead by Herman Nabi, a researcher at Inserm, is based on research carried out with data from several thousand British civil servants—the Whitehall II cohort. This data showed that certain physiological responses to stress can negatively affect a person’s health. Nabi’s team chose to perform a deeper analysis on respondents who declared themselves to be stressed. The goal was to uncover any links between the subjects’ feelings of stress and any coronary disease in the subsequent years.

Data was gathered using a questionnaire that asked “To what extent to you consider the stress or pressure that you have experienced in your life has an effect on your health?” and provided the answer options “not at all,” “a little,” “moderately,” “a lot,” and “extremely.”

Participants were also asked to report on other items that could affect their propensity for coronary disease, like smoking, alcohol consumption, diet, and exercise habits. The team also considered data regarding body mass index, socio-demographic data, and arterial pressure.

The researchers found that those feeling “a lot” of stress or “extremely” stressed were 2.12 times more likely to suffer from a heart attack compared with people who did not report that stress had significantly impacted their health.

These findings suggest that how a person views his or her health may be quite accurate and that clinicians should not ignore patients’ reports of stress, or ill-health as a result of stress. The data also showed that stress was a unifying factor; the rate of coronary disease was universally affected by stress, but not by demographic factors.

This research was published in the European Heart Journal.

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