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Associations of Stressful Life Events and Social Strain With Incident Cardiovascular Disease in the Women’s Health Initiative

Epidemiologic studies have yielded mixed findings on the association of psychosocial stressors with cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk. In this study, we examined associations of stressful life events (SLE) and social strain with incident coronary heart disease (CHD) and stroke (overall, and for hemorrhagic and ischemic strokes) independent of sociodemographic characteristics, and we evaluated whether these relationships were explained by traditional behavioral and biological risk factors. Data from approximately 82 000 Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study participants were used for the SLE and social strain analyses, respectively. Participants were followed for events for up to 18.0 years (median, 14.0). Separate Cox proportional hazards models were generated to estimate associations of each stress measure with incident CVD. After adjusting for sociodemographic characteristics and depressive symptoms, higher SLE and social strain were associated with higher incident CHD and stroke (each P trend <0.05). Hazard ratios and 95% confidence intervals were 1.12 (1.01, 1.25) for incident CHD and 1.14 (1.01, 1.28) for incident stroke among participants reporting high versus low SLE. Findings were similar for social strain. Associations were attenuated with further adjustment for mediating behavioral and biological risk factors. Findings were similar for associations of SLE with ischemic stroke and hemorrhagic stroke, but social strain was only associated with ischemic stroke. Higher SLE and social strain were associated with higher incident CVD independent of sociodemographic factors and depressive symptoms, but not behavioral and biological risk factors.

Authors: Kershaw KN; Kroenke CH; Van Horn L; et al.

J Am Heart Assoc. 2014 Jun;3(3):e000687. Epub 2014-06-27.

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