Psychological Distress and Susceptibility to Cardiovascular Disease Across the Lifespan: Implications for Future Research and Clinical Practice

Stress and psychological distress are known powerful, modifiable risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD) 12345 , yet we know little about when or how the processes underlying this relationship begin. Indeed, prospective lifespan research that connects childhood experience with subsequent CVD-related outcomes to inform development of appropriate early interventions has been lacking. Using data from the 1958 British Birth Cohort Study, Winning et al. (6) , in this issue of the Journal , thoughtfully address this gap by providing evidence suggesting that early distress, as reported in childhood, contributes independently to cardiometabolic risk (CMR) decades later in middle adulthood, even when individuals report experiencing little distress as adults. These findings are on the basis of data collected over a 45-year period from 6,714 individuals who were part of a 1-week birth cohort from Great Britain in 1958. Although differential attrition analysis revealed that males with lower socioeconomic status and cognitive ability scores and higher distress at age 7 were more likely to drop out of the study over time, it is important to note that this pattern of attrition suggests that the findings are conservative estimates of the distress-CMR association. When considered in the broader research literature addressing psychological impacts on the development of CVD, this paper is highly relevant with clear implications for research and clinical practice.