(HealthDay News) — There is a dose-response association for psychological distress and the risk of several causes of mortality, with increased mortality seen even at lower levels of distress, according to a meta-analysis published July 31 in BMJ.

To quantify the link between lower, subclinically symptomatic levels of psychological distress and cause-specific mortality, Tom C. Russ, from the Murray Royal Hospital in Perth, U.K., and colleagues conducted a meta-analysis of 10 large prospective cohort studies from the Health Survey for England involving 68,222 adults. Participants were 35 years or older and free from cardiovascular disease and cancer.

The researchers found that, after adjustment for age and sex, psychological distress correlated with an increased risk of mortality, with a dose-response association seen across the full range of distress severity (adjusted hazard ratio [aHR] for General Health Questionnaire scores of 1 to 3 versus 0, 1.20; aHR for scores 4 to 6, 1.43; aHR for scores 7 to 12, 1.94). The association persisted after further adjustment for somatic comorbidity and behavioral and socioeconomic variables. For cardiovascular disease deaths and deaths from external causes a similar association was observed. For cancer death the correlation was only seen at higher levels of psychological distress.

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“Depression is a serious and debilitating disorder requiring treatment in its own right, but the finding that any level of psychological distress is associated with increased mortality and an increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease, external causes, and cancer (albeit only at higher levels of distress) is highly important,” the authors write.

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