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The effects of psychological distress and its interaction with socioeconomic position on risk of developing four chronic diseases

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)79-85
JournalJournal of Psychosomatic Research
Volume109
Early online date14 Apr 2018
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 14 Apr 2018

Abstract

Objective: To examine the relationship between psychological distress and risk of developing arthritis, cardiovascular disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and diabetes across the range of distress severity, investigate the mediating roles of health behaviours and explore whether the associations vary with socioeconomic position.

Methods: Participants were 16,485 adults from the UK Household Longitudinal Study We examined prospective relationships between psychological distress at baseline (measured using the 12-item General Health Questionnaire) and incidence of arthritis, cardiovascular disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and diabetes (measured using self-report) over 3 years using logistic regression. We then examined the mediating effects of health behaviours and investigated whether the associations varied with socioeconomic position.

Results: Distress significantly increased risk of incident arthritis, cardiovascular disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in a dose-response pattern after controlling for age, sex, socioeconomic position, neighbourhood cohesion, marital status, BMI and baseline disease. High levels of distress (GHQ≥7) increased risk of arthritis (OR 2.22; 1.58-2.13), cardiovascular disease (OR 3.06; 1.89-4.98) and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (OR 3.25; 1.47-7.18). These associations were partially mediated by smoking status but remained significant after controlling for smoking status, diet and exercise. Distress significantly predicted incident diabetes in manual socioeconomic groups only. Effect sizes did not vary with socioeconomic position for arthritis, cardiovascular disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Conclusion: Psychological distress increases risk of incident arthritis, cardiovascular disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in a dose-response pattern, even at low and moderate distress levels. Future research should investigate the mediating role of inflammatory biomarkers.

    Research areas

  • psychological distress, depression, arthritis, cardiovascular disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes

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