News: Mar 04, 2016
Mental disorders in the form of anxiety, depression, personality disorders and addiction at 18 years of age can be linked to an increased risk of early stroke later in life. But, good physical fitness appears to be protective. A study conducted on over 45,000 Swedish men by researchers at Sahlgrenska University arrived at these finding.
Mental disorders in Sweden cause much suffering for the individual and are costly for society. The largest increase in seen in young persons between 16-24 years of age. In the 16-19 year old age group, the number of women hospitalized for depression and anxiety increased eightfold between 1990 and 2010. For young men, the increase was fourfold during the same period.
Research at Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, has previously shown that the number of people who develop early stroke, that is to say, prior to 65 years of age, has increased in Sweden and currently, cases of early stroke make up one fifth of all stroke cases. Early stroke often leads to long-term disabilities, including reduced work capacity.
In a new study at Sahlgrenska Academy, researchers have followed more than 45,000 Swedish men. The men in the study were born between 1950 and 1987, and all were diagnosed with mental disorders during military conscription, at the age of 18.
During the follow-up period, of which the longest was 42 years, 743 of the men in the group that had mental disorders, had a stroke later in life. That is to say, 1.65 percent. Of those not diagnosed with mental disorders at conscription - 1.1 million men - 0.63 percent had a stroke later in life. In other words, stroke was 2.6 times more common in the group that was diagnosed with mental disorders during the teen years.
In the study, researchers noted that the onset of anxiety, depression, personality disorders and addiction at 18 years of age can be linked to an increased risk of early stroke later in life.
“The greatest increase in risk involved addiction, which is a previously known risk factor for stroke. But the fact that also common mental disorders including anxiety disorders, depression and personality disorders increased the risk of early stroke was worrying,” says Margda Waern, Professor at Sahlgrenska Academy.
The largest risk increase was seen in strokes with a fatal outcome.
An encouraging discovery, on the other hand, was that the researchers noted that individuals with good physical fitness, despite their mental disorders, did not have an increased risk of stroke.
“One theory is that the brain becomes more resistant to different types of stress if one is physically active. It has previously been shown that physical training affects the brain’s functions positively, for example, that more nerve cells develop as a result of physical training,” says Maria Åberg, Researcher at Sahlgrenska Academy.
This type of so-called epidemiological research cannot ensure a causal relationship, so more studies are needed. Especially, so-called treatment or intervention studies can directly show causal relationships.
“Even if the findings do not show a direct causal relationship, they provide a strong connection that good condition offers protection against stroke and support physical training being included as a central part in the rehabilitation of young people with mental disorders,” says Margda Waern.
Active training can be a struggle when one does not feel well mentally, and further research is needed to study which methods best motivate and help these young people to improve their physical fitness, state the researchers.
Maria Åberg, Margda Waern and their research group have shown in previous studies that good physical fitness as a teenager also affects IQ and reduces the risk of severe depression, suicidal behavior, epilepsy and dementia later in life and they feel that the status of and resources provided to school sports should be increased.
The article Non-Psychotic Mental Disorders in Teenage Males and Risk of Early Stroke: a Population-Based Study will be published in the March issue of Stroke.
To receive a copy of the article, please contact the authors of the article or the press officer.
Maria Åberg, Physician and Researcher, Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg
Margda Waern, Psychiatrist and Professor, Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg
Originally published on: sahlgrenska.gu.se