Columbia University Medical Center

No Link Between Psychological Distress and Atrial Fibrillation

Electrocardiographic tracing of atrial fibrillation

A recent study found no association between self-reported psychological distress and atrial fibrillation (AF) in women without known heart disease. AF, the most common arrhythmia, is thought to increase the risk of stroke and cardiac death.

Although the study, led by William Whang, MD, MS, assistant professor of clinical medicine (cardiology, Center for Behavioral Cardiovascular Health), found no link between psychological distress and AF risk, it did find a reduced risk of AF in women who reported more frequent happiness.

The prospective study followed more than 30,000 female health professionals for an average of 10 years; all were participants in the Women’s Health Study, a randomized study of low-dose aspirin and vitamin E in the prevention of cardiovascular disease and cancer.

The researchers note the possible role of gender, as another study, the Framingham Offspring Study, found that baseline levels of tension, anger, and hostility predicted an increased 10-year risk of AF in men but not in women.

“Global Psychological Distress and Risk of Atrial Fibrillation Among Women: The Women’s Health Study” appeared in the June 2012 issue of the Journal of the American Heart Association.

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