Background: 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.
Aims: To determine and examine the independent association and causality between anxiety and incident CVD.
Method: 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.
Results: 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.
Conclusions: 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.
© The Royal College of Psychiatrists 2016.