Worried to Death

August 13th, 2012 by Andrea Bennett

One study suggests that even minor anxiety can be a major health risk.

Brought to you by Liberty Mutual's
The Responsibility Project

Worrywarts, you have yet another problem to mull over: your own anxiety.

According to a decade-long study conducted by a team of British researchers, anxiety itself can shorten your life. And this isn’t just bad news for people who suffer from panic attacks and other anxiety-related mental disorders. The researchers, from the University College London and the University of Edinburgh, analyzed over 68,000 adults over the age of 35 and found that even mild anxiety can significantly raise the risk of premature death.

The study, conducted between 1994 and 2004, has been making waves since being published in the July edition of the British Medical Journal. One of the most remarkable findings is that people with serious mental health issues are 41 percent more likely to die from cancer. But even for those with low levels of anxiety and depression, the risk of dying from accidents or injuries was 23 percent higher, and the likelihood of dying from heart disease, a stroke or heart failure rose by 25 percent.

In a summary of the study, the researchers suggested that mental health problems might cause biological changes that increase one’s risk for diabetes and heart disease. Dr. Christopher Cove, a cardiologist and associate professor of medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center, told Health.com that the stresses on the body caused by anxiety include an increase in adrenaline, which can cause the fatty plaque in narrowed arteries to rupture and result in blood clots, heart attacks and strokes.

In regards to accidents and injuries, simple inattention caused by anxiety or depression can be enough to cause a fatal car crash. Considering that your own anxiety could be distracting enough to result in injury or death, it would appear prudent to reassess how well you are taking care of yourself, mentally.

For those who commit to a “work/life balance” – and then violate it over and over – this study comes as a serious warning. Will the findings make you take more note of your stress levels? What have you found to be the best methods to relieve stress? Share them here.