History of Mental Health Distress May Elevate Stroke Risk

People waiting in hospital waiting roomPeople with a history of hospital treatment for mental health conditions may be more likely to have a stroke, according to research published at the American Stroke Association’s annual International Stroke Conference.

Stroke is the fifth-leading cause of death in the United States. It is a leading cause of disability, and according to the American Stroke Association, 80% of strokes are preventable.

Is There a Link Between Mental Health and Strokes?

Researchers analyzed more than 52,000 strokes from the California Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project database. The strokes occurred from 2007-2009, and data were evenly split between women and men.

About 6% of participants in the study—3,337 people—had been treated at a hospital for a mental health condition such as posttraumatic stress (PTSD) or depression in the year prior to the stroke. Using a crossover analysis, the study looked at the link between mental health diagnoses and stroke risk.

Researchers found people hospitalized or treated in an emergency room for a mental health condition were 3.48 times more likely than their peers to have a stroke within 15 days of the hospitalization. They were 3.11 times as likely to have a stroke within 30 days.

Stroke odds decreased over time, but remained elevated for a year following a psychiatric hospitalization. At 360 days following hospital treatment, the stroke risk was still 2.61 times higher than it was among those who had not been treated in a hospital for a mental health condition.

Stroke Warning Signs

Researchers did not seek a causal connection between strokes and hospital treatment for mental health issues, so it remains unclear whether mental health conditions cause strokes or are linked to some other factor that elevates stroke risk.

The study’s authors speculate that mental health conditions might raise blood pressure via the fight or flight response, potentially increasing stroke risk. Mental health diagnoses are often linked to inflammation, which can raise the risk of strokes. It is also possible that poor mental health can undermine self-care by reducing the likelihood that a person takes prescribed medication to reduce the risk of stroke.

The American Stroke Association uses the acronym FAST to help people remember common symptoms of a stroke:

  • F – Face drooping
  • A – Arm weakness
  • S – Speech difficulty
  • T – Time to call 911


  1. American Stroke Association. (n.d.). About stroke. Retrieved from http://www.strokeassociation.org/STROKEORG/AboutStroke/About-Stroke_UCM_308529_SubHomePage.jsp
  2. Davis, K. (2017, February 24). Columbia researchers find patients hospitalized for mental health conditions at higher risk for stroke. Retrieved from http://www.cardiovascularbusiness.com/topics/practice-management/quality/columbia-researchers-find-patients-hospitalized-mental-health-conditions-higher-risk-stroke
  3. Psychiatric illness may increase stroke risk. (2017, February 23). Retrieved from http://newsroom.heart.org/news/psychiatric-illness-may-increase-stroke-risk
  4. Stroke warning signs and symptoms. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.strokeassociation.org/STROKEORG/WarningSigns/Stroke-Warning-Signs-and-Symptoms_UCM_308528_SubHomePage.jsp

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  • Leave a Comment
  • Campbell

    March 28th, 2017 at 3:23 PM

    Just remember that this does say hospital treatment

  • parker

    March 29th, 2017 at 12:46 PM

    Isn’t it funny how things that you would not necessarily put together then wind up having some kind of correlation that you couldn’t have previously predicted?

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