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Research paper
Is psycho-physical stress a risk factor for stroke? A case-control study


Background Chronic stress is associated with cardiovascular diseases, but the link with stroke has not been well established. Stress is influenced by life-style habits, personality type and anxiety levels. We sought to evaluate psycho-physical stress as a risk factor for stroke, while assessing gender influences.

Methods Case-control study. Cases: patients (n=150) aged 18–65, admitted consecutively to our Stroke Unit with the diagnosis of incident stroke. Controls: (n=300) neighbours (paired with case ±5 years) recruited from the census registry. Study variables: socio-demographic characteristics, vascular risk factors, psychophysical scales of H&R (Holmes & Rahe questionnaire of life events), ERCTA (Recall Scale of Type A Behaviour), SF12 (QoL scale), GHQ28 (General Health Questionnaire). Statistical analyses included conditional multiple logistic regression models.

Results Mean age was 53.8 years (SD: 9.3). Compared with controls, and following adjustment for confounding variables, significant associations between stroke and stress were: H&R values >150 OR=3.84 (95% CI 1.91 to 7.70, p<0.001); ERCTA (values >24) OR=2.23 (95% CI 1.19 to 4.18, p=0.012); mental SF12 (values >50) OR=0.73 (95% CI 0.39 to 1.37, p=0.330); psychological SF12 (values >50) OR=0.66 (95% CI 0.33 to 1.30, p=0.229), male gender OR=9.33 (95% CI 4.53 to 19.22, p<0.001), high consumption of energy-providing beverages OR=2.63 (95% CI 1.30 to 5.31, p=0.007), current smoker OR=2.08 (95% CI 1.01 to 4.27, p=0.046), ex-smoker OR=2.35 (95% CI 1.07 to 5.12, p=0.032), cardiac arrhythmia OR=3.18 (95% CI 1.19 to 8.51, p=0.022) and Epworth scale (≥9) OR=2.83 (95% CI 1.03 to 7.78, p=0.044).

Conclusions Compared with healthy age-matched individuals, stressful habits and type A behaviour are associated with high risk of stroke. This association is not modified by gender.

  • Stress
  • stroke
  • cerebrovascular disease
  • neuroepidemiology
  • quality of life
  • subarachnoid haemorrhage, ultrasound

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