Association between mental illness and blood pressure variability: a systematic review

Biomed Eng Online. 2022 Mar 21;21(1):19. doi: 10.1186/s12938-022-00985-w.


Background: Mental illness represents a major global burden of disease worldwide. It has been hypothesised that individuals with mental illness have greater blood pressure fluctuations that lead to increased cardiovascular risk and target organ damage. This systematic review aims to (i) investigate the association between mental illness and blood pressure variability (BPV) and (ii) describe methods of BPV measurements and analysis which may affect pattern and degree of variability.

Methods: Four electronic databases were searched from inception until 2020. The quality assessment was performed using STROBE criteria. Studies were included if they investigated BPV (including either frequency or time domain analysis) in individuals with mental illness (particularly anxiety/generalised anxiety disorder, depression/major depressive disorder, panic disorder and hostility) and without hypertension. Two authors independently screened titles, abstracts and full texts. A third author resolved any disagreements.

Results: Twelve studies met the inclusion criteria. Three studies measured short-term BPV, two measured long-term BPV and seven measured ultra-short-term BPV. All studies related to short-term BPV using ambulatory and home blood pressure monitoring found a higher BPV in individuals with depression or panic disorder. The two studies measuring long-term BPV were limited to the older population and found mixed results. Mental illness is significantly associated with an increased BPV in younger and middle-aged adults. All studies of ultra-short-term BPV using standard cardiac autonomic assessment; non-invasive continuous finger blood pressure and heart rate signals found significant association between BPV and mental illness. A mixed result related to degree of tilt during tilt assessment and between controlled and spontaneous breathing were observed in patients with psychological state.

Conclusions: Current review found that people with mental illness is significantly associated with an increased BPV regardless of age. Since mental illness can contribute to the deterioration of autonomic function (HRV, BPV), early therapeutic intervention in mental illness may prevent diseases associated with autonomic dysregulation and reduce the likelihood of negative cardiac outcomes. Therefore, these findings may have important implications for patients' future physical health and well-being, highlighting the need for comprehensive cardiovascular risk reduction.

Keywords: Autonomic nervous system; Blood pressure variability; Mental disorder; Spectral analysis; Time-domain analysis.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Blood Pressure
  • Blood Pressure Monitoring, Ambulatory
  • Depressive Disorder, Major*
  • Humans
  • Hypertension*
  • Mental Disorders*
  • Middle Aged