New research suggests that stress-related disorders are associated with a subsequent risk of life-threatening infections including sepsis, central nervous system infections and endocarditis, with the risk particularly high among people diagnosed at a younger age and those with other psychiatric conditions.
For the study, researchers examined data from Swedish population and health registers and assessed whether severe psychiatric reactions to adversity are associated with subsequent risk of life-threatening infections. They compared infection rates for 144,919 patients diagnosed with a stress-related disorder including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), acute stress reaction and other stress reactions, with 184,612 unaffected full siblings and a further 1,449,190 unaffected individuals from the general population.
The authors reported that stress-related disorders were associated with all studied life-threatening infections, with the highest risk observed for meningitis (hazard ratio [HR] 1.63; 95% CI 1.23 to 2.16) and endocarditis (1.57 HR; 95% CI 1.08 to 2.30) in the sibling-based analysis.
“Despite a relatively low absolute risk, the high mortality from life-threatening infections calls for increased clinical awareness among health professionals caring for patients with stress-related disorders, especially those diagnosed at younger age,” the authors concluded.
The findings are published in the BMJ.