(HealthDay News) – The perception that stress affects health (not perceived stress levels) is associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease, according to a study published online June 26 in the European Heart Journal.

Hermann Nabi, PhD, from the Centre for Research in Epidemiology and Population Health at INSERM in Villejuif, France, and colleagues analyzed data from 7,268 men and women (mean age, 49.5 years) participating in the British Whitehall II cohort study.

Over 18 years of follow-up, the researchers noted 352 coronary deaths or first non-fatal myocardial infarction (MI) events. Controlling for sociodemographic characteristics, participants who reported at baseline that stress has affected their health “a lot or extremely” had a 2.12-fold higher risk of coronary death or incident non-fatal MI compared to those who reported no effect of stress on their health. This association was lessened, but remained significant (fully adjusted hazard ratio, 1.49) after controlling for biological, behavioral, and other psychological risk factors, including perceived stress levels and measures of social support.

“Randomized controlled trials are needed to determine whether disease risk can be reduced by increasing clinical attention to those who complain that stress greatly affects their health,” the authors write.

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