Stress during childhood may increase risk of cardiovascular disease in adulthood, a new study suggests.
Researchers studied 377 people who had been involved in the study as children. Participants had undergone emotional behavior tests at age seven. Results from these tests were compared to their risk for cardiovascular disease at age 40. Once other factors affecting heart disease were controlled for, the researchers found that middle-aged women who suffered significant distress at age 7 were 31% more likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease. Men were 17% more likely. The study defined "distress" as being easily frustrated, quick to anger, and other such maladaptive behavior.
Conversely, the study suggested that positive emotional traits such as a good attention span were linked to better cardiovascular health. This information is consistent with other studies in adults that suggested a link between bad emotional health and increased heart disease risk. So far, the biological mechanism behind these links are not well understood. Scientists have a long way to go in understanding just how the interplay between mental and physical health works on a biological level.