Depression and anxiety can aggravate health concerns by inducing its victims into poor health habits, especially smoking and physical inactivity. All this culminates in raising their cardiovascular risk, inducing more stress; says a recent study.
The researchers found a significant and direct link between increasing psychological distress and increasing risk of cardiovascular illness and death.
"Psychological distress is a growing problem," said Mark Hamer, Ph.D., a senior research fellow at University College London, UK.
"It's very important that physicians try to identify psychological distress, but it's also important to look at the behaviors and the risk factors that are associated with it.
"Treating psychological factors on their own might not be the best way.
"We're suggesting that you might have to intervene in the more intermediate pathways, which is the behavior, in addition to trying to treat the psychological problems," he added.
For the new study, researchers recruited 6,576 men and women who were participating in the Scottish Health Survey, a population-based study.
People with depression and anxiety faced more than a 50 percent increased cardiovascular risk when compared to happier people.
They found that smoking and physical inactivity alone explained approximately 63 percent of the increased cardiovascular risk.
Smoking had the greatest impact, accounting for nearly 41 percent of the risk. Alcohol intake explained less than 2 percent of the risk, while high blood pressure explained 13 percent and CRP explained just under 6 percent.
"This study helps us to better understand the relative contributions of stress-related changes in behavior and physiology leading to heart disease," said Dr Roland von Kanel, a professor of medicine and psychiatry, and head of the psychocardiology unit of the Swiss Cardiovascular Center at the University Hospital of Bern, Switzerland.