Disaster-related Stress as a Prospective Risk Factor for Hypertension in Parents of Adolescent Fire Victims

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Life stress has been related to hypertension in various studies, but well-designed research carried out in disaster settings is scarce. Moreover, most research focuses on the primary victims and disregards effects on their caregivers. In a prospective, population-based cohort study, the authors tested the hypothesis that parents of adolescents who had been involved in the Volendam, Netherlands, pub fire on January 1, 2001 (n=418) were more at risk of developing hypertension than parents from the same community whose children had not been involved in the fire (n=1,462). Only residents without prior evidence of hypertension were included. The follow-up period covered 4 years (2001–2004). Assessment of hypertension was based on the records of family practitioners and pharmacies. The odds of developing new hypertension were 1.48 times higher in parents of fire victims than in control parents during the follow-up period (odds ratio=1.48, 95% confidence interval: 1.09, 2.02). All analyses controlled for age, gender, socioeconomic status, family practice, history of chronic disease, and number of contacts with the family practitioner during follow-up. Since hypertension is an important risk factor for cardiovascular morbidity, it is important to provide interventions that help people fight the negative effects of disaster-related stress.

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