A new study, conducted by researchers at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, has found that psychological distress, not depression, may increase the risk of stroke.
Studies in past have revealed that stroke often leads to depression, but their wasn't any clear evidence as to whether depression could lead to stroke.
"Stroke is among the leading causes of long-term disability and death worldwide," said study author Paul Surtees, PhD, of the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom.
"Understanding the mechanisms by which overall emotional health may increase stroke risk may inform stroke prevention and help identify those at increased stroke risk," he added.
For the study, the researchers examined 20,627 people who had never suffered a stroke for an average of 8.5 years.
As part of the study, participants answered questions concerning their psychological distress, based on a scale measuring well-being, and their history of major depressive disorder.
During the study period, 595 participants suffered a stroke and 28 percent of these strokes were fatal.
The results showed that psychological distress was linked to an increased risk of stroke and that the risk of stroke increased the more distress the participants reported.
Considering factors such as cigarette smoking, systolic blood pressure, overall blood cholesterol, obesity, previous heart attack, diabetes, social class, education, high blood pressure treatment, family history of stroke and recent antidepressant medication use, the researchers found that the link remained the same.
The study also showed that for every one standard deviation lower that participants scored on the mental well-being scale, their risk of stroke increased by 11 percent. The relationship was even more pronounced for those with fatal strokes.
It was also found that the risk of stroke was not increased for people who had experienced an episode of major depression in the past year or for people who had experienced major depression at any point in their lifetime.
The study is published in the March 4, 2008, issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.