Can Stress Shorten Your Life?

August 3, 2012

I’m Kim.
I’m an M.D.-turned-entrepreneur and I’m dedicated to helping you build your dream career + lifestyle. Welcome to my blog, where I write (and podcast) about wellness, business + success!
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I have long maintained that stress is a major, under-recognized trigger for illness and unwell. I have little doubt that stress contributed to my own health crisis.

And now, an important study has come out validating that connection. The study was published this week in the British Medical Journal. It was a large study, looking at more than 68,000 adults over the age of 35. Individuals were given a stress score, through a survey that asked about things like losing sleep due to worry, difficulty concentrating, and having trouble overcoming difficulties.

And, alarmingly, they found that people with more distress were more likely to die. Most of the causes of death were due to heart disease, strokes, and cancer. Moreover, the effect of stress was dose-dependent. Which means: the higher an individual’s stress score, the higher their chance of dying. To account for the chicken-and-egg possibility that it’s illness that causes stress, and not the other way around, the researchers discounted all early deaths–ie. people who had died within 5 years of the observation period. (Making it much less likely that it was the illness that caused the distress.)

And they still found a strong association between stress and death.

In fact, as reported on MedicineNet:

People with mild distress were about 29% more likely to die of heart disease or stroke than people who reported no distress. Mild distress didn’t seem to raise the risk for cancer.

People with moderate levels of distress were about 43% more likely to die of any cause. And people with high levels of distress were 94% more likely to die during the study than people with no distress.

All this is not really a surprise. But having the research to back up common wisdom on stress and health is extremely validating. And, ultimately, helps with my endgame: encouraging more people to get serious about stress management.

If you’re on board with that plan, where to start? You need a toolbox! Here ya go:

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