TitlePsychological distress, neuroticism, and cause-specific mortality: early prospective evidence from UK Biobank.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsBatty, GD, McIntosh, AM, Russ, TC, Deary, IJ, Gale, CR
JournalJ Epidemiol Community Health
Date Published11/2016
KeywordsAdult, Aged, Cause of Death, Female, Humans, Male, Middle Aged, Neuroticism, Prospective Studies, Risk Factors, Severity of Illness Index, Stress, Psychological, Surveys and Questionnaires, United Kingdom

BACKGROUND: It is well established that psychological distress (depression and anxiety) is related to an increased risk of mortality. The personality trait of neuroticism, reflecting a relatively stable tendency towards negative emotions, has also been associated with elevated rates of death in some studies. Accordingly, we tested the possibility that it is the neuroticism trait itself, rather than the distress state, that is generating an increased risk of mortality.

METHODS: We used data from the UK Biobank study, a UK-wide prospective cohort study (2006-2010) in which distress was ascertained using the Patient Health Questionnaire and neuroticism using the Eysenck Personality Questionnaire-Revised Short Form.

RESULTS: A mean of 6.2 years of follow-up of 308 721 study members gave rise to 4334 deaths. Higher neuroticism was weakly associated with total mortality (age-adjusted and sex-adjusted HR per SD increase; 95% CI 1.05; 1.02 to 1.09), and moderately strongly correlated with distress symptoms (r=0.55, p<0.0001). Distress symptoms were positively related to risk of total mortality (age-adjusted and sex-adjusted HR per SD increase in distress; 95% CI 1.23; 1.20 to 1.26). This gradient was, in fact, slightly strengthened after adding neuroticism to the multivariable model (1.30; 1.26 to 1.34) but markedly attenuated after taking into account other covariates which included health behaviours and somatic disease (1.16; 1.12 to 1.20). Similar results were apparent when cardiovascular disease, cancer and external cause of death were the end points of interest.

CONCLUSIONS: While there was good a priori reasons to anticipate the neuroticism would at least partially explain the relation between distress symptoms and cause-specific mortality, we found no such evidence in the present study.

Alternate JournalJ Epidemiol Community Health
PubMed ID27520533
PubMed Central IDPMC5541175
Grant ListMC_UP_A620_1015 / / Medical Research Council / United Kingdom
MC_QA137853 / / Medical Research Council / United Kingdom
MC_UU_12011/2 / / Medical Research Council / United Kingdom
MR/K026992/1 / / Medical Research Council / United Kingdom
/ / Wellcome Trust / United Kingdom
/ / Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council / United Kingdom