Does perceived stress increase the risk of atrial fibrillation? A population-based cohort study in Denmark

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Psychological stress is associated with increased risk of acute cardiovascular diseases, as myocardial infarction. We recently found a higher risk of atrial fibrillation following an acute stressful life event, but it remains unknown whether this also applies to common and less acute stress exposures.


We investigated the risk of incident atrial fibrillation in people with high levels of perceived stress by following a population-based cohort of 114,337 participants from the Danish National Health Survey from 2010 to 2014. The survey holds information on lifestyle factors and perceived stress measured by Cohen's 10-item Perceived Stress Scale (PSS). We obtained information on atrial fibrillation, comorbidities and socioeconomic status from Danish nationwide registers. We identified 2172 persons with a first episode of atrial fibrillation during 424,839 person-years of follow-up. The hazard ratio (HR) of atrial fibrillation with 95% confidence interval (CI) was calculated with Cox proportional hazard model.


The risk of atrial fibrillation increased with increasing PSS score; persons in the highest perceived stress quintile had 28% (95% CI, 12%-46%) higher risk of atrial fibrillation compared with persons in the lowest perceived stress quintile. However, the association disappeared when adjusting for comorbidities, socioeconomic status and lifestyle factors; HR was 1.01 (95% CI, 0.88-1.16) when comparing persons in the highest and the lowest perceived stress quintile.


This large population-based cohort study did not reveal a higher risk of atrial fibrillation among persons with a high degree of perceived stress after adjustment for participants' baseline characteristics.

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