Psychological stress and fatal heart attack: the Athens (1981) earthquake natural experiment

Lancet. 1983 Feb 26;1(8322):441-4. doi: 10.1016/s0140-6736(83)91439-3.


The effects of acute and subacute psychological stress caused by a sudden general disaster on mortality from atherosclerotic heart disease (underlying cause) and cardiac events (proximate cause) were investigated by comparing total and cause-specific mortality during the days after a major earthquake in Athens in 1981 with the mortality during the surrounding month and the corresponding periods of 1980 and 1982. There was an excess of deaths from cardiac and external causes on the days after the major earthquake, but no excess of deaths from cancer and little, if any, excess of deaths from other causes. The excess mortality was more evident when atherosclerotic heart disease was considered as the underlying cause (5, 7, and 8 deaths on the first three days, respectively; background mean deaths per day 2.6; upper 95th centile 5) than when cardiac events in general were considered as the proximate cause (9, 11, and 14 deaths on the first three days, respectively; background mean 7.1, upper 95th centile 12).

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Coronary Disease / mortality*
  • Coronary Disease / psychology
  • Death, Sudden / etiology
  • Disasters*
  • Female
  • Greece
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Sex Factors
  • Stress, Psychological / complications*
  • Stress, Psychological / etiology
  • Urban Population