Feelings of anxiety and bouts of depression can seem like they exist only in our heads, but their effects are much more far reaching than that.
Anxiety is literally life threatening. An analysis of health surveys found that anxiousness creates a much higher risk of mortality in virtually every health condition. And although the basic formula was that the higher levels of stress a person experienced, the greater their risk of mortality, even low levels of anxiety boosted the chances of an early death.
For example, people who described themselves as mildly distressed were still 29 percent more likely to die of heart disease or stroke. People with moderate levels of stress were 43 percent more likely to die of any cause.
While it probably sounds counterintuitive to warn people to stop worrying so they can live longer, there are steps people can take to reduce anxiety. Aside from seeking professional advice, getting moderate exercise, and avoiding alcohol or stimulants, certain botanicals have been clinically studied for anxiety relief.
One of them, a specialized extract of Echinacea angustifolia, can begin showing results on the first day, and can even be taken before anxiety-causing events, including public speaking or travel, without causing drowsiness. Research has found that the calming effects of the herb work on a continual, or occasional basis, so it can help you reach a place of peacefulness regardless of your situation. And that can only yield positive results for your overall health, too.
Russ TC, Stamatakis E, Hamer M, Starr JM, Kivimäki M, Batty GD. Association between psychological distress and mortality: individual participant pooled analysis of 10 prospective cohort studies. BMJ. 2012;345:e4933.
Objective: To quantify the link between lower, subclinically symptomatic, levels of psychological distress and cause-specific mortality in a large scale, population based study.
Design: Individual participant meta-analysis of 10 large prospective cohort studies from the Health Survey for England. Baseline psychological distress measured by the 12 item General Health Questionnaire score, and mortality from death certification.
Participants: 68,222 people from general population samples of adults aged 35 years and over, free of cardiovascular disease and cancer, and living in private households in England at study baseline.
Main outcome measures: Death from all causes (n = 8365), cardiovascular disease including cerebrovascular disease (n = 3382), all cancers (n = 2552), and deaths from external causes (n = 386). Mean follow-up was 8.2 years (standard deviation 3.5).
Results: We found a dose-response association between psychological distress across the full range of severity and an increased risk of mortality (age and sex adjusted hazard ratio for General Health Questionnaire scores of 1-3 v score 0: 1.20, 95% confidence interval 1.13 to 1.27; scores 4-6: 1.43, 1.31 to 1.56; and scores 7-12: 1.94, 1.66 to 2.26; P<0.001 for trend). This association remained after adjustment for somatic comorbidity plus behavioural and socioeconomic factors. A similar association was found for cardiovascular disease deaths and deaths from external causes. Cancer death was only associated with psychological distress at higher levels.
Conclusions: Psychological distress is associated with increased risk of mortality from several major causes in a dose-response pattern. Risk of mortality was raised even at lower levels of distress.
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