Anxiety and new onset of cardiovascular disease: critical review and meta-analysis

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Anxiety has been associated with new-onset cardiovascular disease (CVD), but the quality of this relationship is unclear. Only if anxiety is a causal, independent cardiovascular risk factor might it be a target for CVD prevention.


To determine and examine the independent association and causality between anxiety and incident CVD.


PubMed, EMBASE and PsycINFO databases were searched up to October 2013. A review of Hill's criteria for causality and random effects meta-analysis were conducted of prospective, population-based studies examining anxiety and incident CVD in people free from CVD at baseline.


The meta-analysis comprised 37 papers (n = 1 565 699). The follow-up ranged from 1 to 24 years. Anxiety was associated with a 52% increased incidence of CVD (hazard ratio = 1.52, 95% CI 1.36–1.71). The risk seemed independent of traditional risk factors and depression. The evaluation of Hill's criteria largely argued in favour of causality.


Anxiety may be of interest for CVD prevention. Future research should examine biological and behavioural underpinnings of the association in order to identify targets for intervention.

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