Finally, a bit of proof.
Everyone out there probably believes – and it’s good old common sense to hold this view – that stress is a killer.
The problem is, however, that it’s very hard to show that link in studies. So, whereas many studies have shown that people who self-report having a lot of excess stress and people who seem to researchers to be under lots of stress have poorer health outcomes, including earlier deaths than people who don’t feel or don’t seem to be under as great a stress burden; those are not the best objective means to evaluate the role that stress plays in these deleterious health outcomes.
In other words, what you need is an objective standard measure of stress load, such as cortisol levels, for example.
And that’s the neat thing about a recent study in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism (JCEM, thank God).
In this study, researchers measured urinary levels of cortisol, the stress-related hormone, in 861 people over the age of 65, and found that the death rate was directly related to the cortisol level, that is, the higher the cortisol level, the more likely it was that that person would die in the 6 years that the study went on.
And as you’d probably expect, too, elevated cortisol levels were related only to higher rates of death from cardiovascular disease, in other words, from heart attacks and strokes.