The association between psychosocial stress and mortality is mediated by lifestyle and chronic diseases: The Hoorn Study

Femke Rutters*, Stefan Pilz, Anitra D. Koopman, Simone P. Rauh, Saskia J. Te Velde, Coen D. Stehouwer, Petra J. Elders, Giel Nijpels, Jacqueline M. Dekker

*Corresponding author for this work

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Psychosocial stress is associated with chronic disease. We evaluated whether in the general population the number of stressful life events is associated with risk of mortality and whether this association is mediated by behavioral factors and morbidities. We conducted this study in the Hoorn cohort; a population-based cohort study among older men and women. Our main variable of interest was the number of stressful life events experienced during the previous 5 years, which were assessed by questionnaire. We calculated Cox proportional hazard ratios (HRs) for all-cause and cause-specific mortality during follow-up for those who experienced stressful life events compared to those who did not. We included 2385 participants (46% male; 62 +/- 7 years). During 20 years of follow-up 834 (35%) participants died, of whom 239 (28.6%) died of cardiovascular disease. Compared to the group with no stressful life events, the age, sex and socioeconomic status adjusted HRs (with 95% confidence intervals) for all-cause mortality, for the groups who had 1 event, 2 events, 3 events and >= 4 events were 0.89 (0.72-1.09), 1.01 (0.81-1.24), 1.29 (1.00-1.66) and 1.44 (1.08-1.92), respectively. Similar results were observed for cardiovascular mortality. Mediation analysis showed that smoking, prevalent type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease were statistically significant mediators of the association between the number of stressful life events and mortality. Having 3 or more stressful life events is associated with a significantly increased risk for mortality in an elderly population-based cohort. This association is mediated by smoking, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)166-172
JournalSocial Science & Medicine
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2014


  • Stressful life events
  • Mortality
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Lifestyle

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