Stress related disorders, like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), are associated with a subsequent risk of life-threatening infections, and the risk was particularly high among people diagnosed at a younger age and those with other psychiatric conditions, according to a large Swedish study.
I know how stress ruin someone’s life. An aunt of mine was diagnosed as moderate depression in her 40s after she didn’t sleep for a whole month even with sleeping pills. She recovered several years later but soon had a heart attack, which she said was due to her stress during those long and suffering years.
Luckily, more than 10 years have passed and now she’s living a nice life with few quarrels with my uncle or bad moods. She knows how to live better after recovery from that depression. But not everyone is as optimistic as her.
Stress-related disorders linked to severe infections
Stress related disorders refer to severe conditions triggered by a significant life event or trauma, like earthquake, gun shooting, and unexpected death of a loved one. Stress related disorders are not uncommon, and they are usually linked to poor mental and physical health.
Although the absolute risk of having the infections is not high, the mortality of these infections is high enough to draw attention of individuals with stress related disorders.
A study was carried out in Sweden. Researchers compared infection rates for near 150,000 patients diagnosed with a stress related disorder, as well as their more than 180,000 unaffected full siblings and other unaffected individuals from the general population of less than 1.5 million.
The average age of the patients was 37 years old, and the participants were monitored for an average of 8 years.
The study aimed to see how stress related disorders are linked to life threatening infections such as sepsis and meningitis.
For patients with stress related disorders, every year 2.9 persons showed new cases of life-threatening infections per 1,000 persons. For the patients’ siblings, the figure is 1.7; for other unaffected individuals, the figure was 1.3.
After adjusted the data to family history and other physical or psychiatric conditions, the result shows that patients with stress related disorders are twice likely to have all kinds of studied life-threatening infections.
This is an observational study, so we can’t establish cause or rule out the possibility that other unmeasured factors may have influenced the result.
Call for awareness
In spite of the uncertain factors, researchers point out that the findings were largely unchanged after further analyses, because of which they call for increased awareness among health professionals caring for patients with stress related disorders, especially those diagnosed at a younger age.
Physical and psychiatric health are linked together. This is a statement our ancestors said even before modern medicine appeared.
A holistic approach to research and management of stress related disorders, in partnership with patients and families, is likely the best way to help people with this common and debilitating condition, professor Jonathan Bisson said.