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The association between emotional well-being and the incidence of stroke in older adults

Glenn V. Ostir, Kyriakos S. Markides, M. Kristen Peek, & James S. Goodwin
University of Texas Medical Branch

Published in 'Psychosomatic Medicine', 63, 210-215, 20

The researchers of this study examined the effects of emotional well-being and whether or not positive or negative affect, or both, predicted the risk of stroke.  The data was taken from a population study of adults 65 years of age or older, who reported no history of stroke at the beginning of the research period.    Information for 2478 older adults (1706 females; 772 males) was gathered in 1986 and annual follow-up interviews were conducted for the next 6 years.  Most participants were non-smokers (84%).  During the 6-year period, 340 strokes occurred within the study population: 265 were nonfatal and 75 were fatal.
The results demonstrated that positive affect was more strongly linked to stroke incidence than negative affect.  Increasing levels of positive affect were significantly related to a reduced risk of stroke.  This relationship was still evident even after gender, race, negative affect, and known risk factors of stroke were controlled.
As the study was correlational in nature, the causal direction of the relationship between positive affect and stroke incidence cannot be determined.  The relationship may in fact be mediated by some other variable that was not considered in this study.  In fact, the researchers suggested one reason why positive affect may be related to a reduced risk of stroke, that is, individuals who frequently experience positive emotions may engage in more health-related behaviours, such as exercise.  Furthermore, they suggest that future investigations should consider whether interventions aimed at improving an older in person?s level of positive affect can reduce his or her risk of stroke or even improve recovery from stroke.  

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