The following indicates research and highlights the following from the American Heart Association.
- High stress and deep depression among heart patients may increase the risk of death or heart attack by 48 percent. Behavioral disorders are treatable and life insurance rates can be affordable.
- The findings validate the concept of a “psychosocial perfect storm” for heart patients.
- Researchers say behavioral interventions may be needed to help heart patients manage both stress and depression.
The combination of stress and heavy depression can significantly increase heart patient’s risk of death or heart attack, according to new research in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, an American Heart Association journal.
One study, over fifteen years ago, examined the effect of high stress levels and high depressive symptoms among nearly 5,000 heart patients. Researchers concluded that risk is amplified when both conditions are present, thus validating the concept of a “psychosocial perfect storm.”
“The increase in risk accompanying high stress and high depressive symptoms was robust and consistent across demographics, medical history, medication use and health risk behaviors,” said Carmela Alcántara, Ph. D., lead author of the study and associate research scientist at Columbia University Medical Center for Behavioral Cardiovascular Health.
Study participants included 4,487 coronary heart disease patients, 45 years and older, enrolled in the Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke (REGARDS) study.
During in-home examinations and self-administered questionnaires, participants were asked how often during the past week they felt depressed, lonely, sad, or had crying spells. To determine stress levels, participants were asked how often during the past month they felt they were unable to control important things in their lives, felt overwhelmed, lacked confidence in their ability to handle personal problems and felt things were not going their way.
About 6 percent reported both high stress and high depression.
During an average six-year follow-up, 1,337 deaths or heart attacks occurred. Short-term risk of death or heart attack increased 48 percent for those in the high stress-high depressive symptoms group compared with those in the low stress-low depressive symptoms group.
The elevated risk was most strongly associated with death rather than heart attack; additional results suggest the deaths may have been cardiovascular-related, but more research is needed. The risk was significant only during the first two-and-half years from the initial home visit and wasn’t significant for those experiencing either high stress or high depressive symptoms alone.
Study findings may challenge traditional research paradigms that only focus on depression and its impact on patients with heart disease, according to Alcántara. Behavioral interventions also should be considered to help heart disease patients manage both stress and depression better.
In the underwriting area for life insurance, handling stress, anxiety and depression is treatable and affordable, though many that suffer do not seek help. Many feel that they will get over it, exercise, take breaks and not go to the doctor. They don’t want to reveal to an insurance company that they are taking medications for panic disorders that may increase their rates. Then, it becomes even worse with stress, out-of-control depression and a heart attack possibly looming.
Although stress and depression have already been proven to create numerous health issues, many do not realize how these mood changes can affect long term health. A study released from the American Heart Association suggests the dangers of stress and anxiety.
When considering life insurance, your rates will always be based on the quality of your health. Guaranteed life is available without a medical exam, but death benefit limits may not be enough to cover what you need. However, life insurance companies are allowing more flexibility because depression and stress are not uncommon. The CDC estimates that 1 in 10 Americans suffer from some form of depression and if you are following doctors orders and your condition is controlled, life insurance companies will often assign a better rating than expected.
As with most conditions, the severity of depression or anxiety will always cause an increase in premium. Adding a heart attack along with a serious mood disorder can, in some cases, result in a decline from the insurance company. Because every situation is different, talk to a qualified agent for the best options. Most importantly, planning for your future while young and healthy always offers an easier solution.
Want to learn more about life insurance? Read our article The Most Frequently Asked Life Insurance Questions.