Unexpected connection found between stress disorders and severe infections

November 4, 2019  14:35

Stress disorders increase the risk of developing life-threatening infectious diseases like meningitis and sepsis, said in a study published on the BMJ

Previous studies have also linked stress disorders (such as PTSD, acute stress response, adaptation disorder, etc.) to poor mental and physical health.

An international team of scientists analyzed Swedish population and health registers to find out if there is a connection between severe psychiatric reactions to trauma and other accidents and the subsequent risk of life-threatening infections - sepsis, endocarditis, meningitis, or other infections of the central nervous system.

They examined data on 144,919 patients with diagnosed stress disorder, data on 184,612 siblings of these patients and 1,449,190 people from the general population who were not affected by stress disorder.

After taking into account the family history and other physical or mental conditions, scientists have identified a connection between stress disorders in all of the infections listed above. The highest relative risks, compared with unaffected siblings, concerned meningitis (63%) and endocarditis (57%).

“Younger age at diagnosis of a stress related disorder and the presence of psychiatric comorbidity, especially substance use disorders, were associated with higher hazard ratios, whereas use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors in the first year after diagnosis of a stress related disorder was associated with attenuated hazard ratios,” the source noted.

Scientists point out that further research is needed to improve understanding of the role of lifestyle factors, as well as treatments for stress disorders. This will help reduce the risk of life-threatening infections.

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