Psychological Distress and Socioeconomic Status Increase Risk for Chronic Diseases

AUGUST 10, 2018
Christine Potkul
The results of a recent UK study reveal that psychological distress, whether considered low or moderate, can increase a patient’s risk for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), arthritis, and cardiovascular disease (CVD).

The study, published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research, examined the association between psychological distress and socioeconomic position for diabetes, arthritis, COPD, and CVD. The research team gathered data from 16,485 adults and considered each patient’s health habits that would affect risk and their variations based on socioeconomic status.

The study controlled for age, sex, body mass index, baseline disease, and social support. Using the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ), at baseline, patients self-reported their experience with the 4 disorders over the past 3 years. The patients were then divided by socioeconomic position, based on occupation, using the Registrar General’s Social Class.

The researchers found that there was a dose-response pattern of psychological distress linked with significantly increased risk for COPD, CVD, and arthritis. Patients who scored 7 or higher on the GHQ were said to be at greater risk for COPD (odds ratio [OR], 3.25; 95% CI, 1.47-7.18), CVD (OR, 3.06; 95% CI, 1.89-4.98), and arthritis (OR, 2.22; 95% CI, 1.58-2.13). Additionally, smoking status, exercise, and eating habits also affected this association. 

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