High blood pressure is generally associated with risk factors such as heart disease, stroke, or heart attack. One massive study following more than 1.7 million Swedish men showed men’s mental health influenced by adolescent blood pressure, heart rate, and smaller factors like weight.
Various previous studies show that people with an elevated resting heart rate showed to have PTSD, depression, or panic disorders. These findings could be skewed though due to side effects from medications.
Researchers from Sweden and Finland wanted to aim more specifically at the potential differences is the correlation between a person’s resting heart rate and/or blood pressure with psychiatric disorders.
From the years of 1969-2010, researchers from Sweden and Finland collected data from 1,794,361 Swedish men, averaging 18 years old. They got their resting heart rate and blood pressure level from military conscriptions.
The co-authors, including Dr. Antti Latvala, from the University of Helsinki in Finland, also noted factors that may affect any of the outcomes such as cognitive, socioeconomic, and physical factors. Additionally, because of the correlation between cardiovascular problems and mental disorders with height, BMI, and weight, the researchers included them too.
A person’s IQ can also be associated with psychiatric problems, so the data was adjusted to account for that as well.
The researchers found that there was a 69% higher risk of developing an obsessive compulsive disorder in male teenagers with a resting heart rate of 82 beats per minute, compared with male teenagers whose resting heart rate was below 62 beats per minute.
Another pattern they found was that men with higher heart rates experienced a 21% increase risk for schizophrenia, along with an 18% higher risk for anxiety than men with lower heart rates. However, teenage males that had a lower resting heart rate were tied to violent offenses and substance abuse problems.
The authors reported, “In this large-scale longitudinal cohort study, we found men with higher resting heart rate and higher blood pressure in late adolescence to be more likely to have received a diagnosis of OCD, schizophrenia, or anxiety disorder later in life.”
OCD had the highest correlation to men with higher resting heart rates than men with lower resting heart rates–about 70-80% more likely. Additionally, men with the highest blood pressure of the group had a 30-40% higher risk of being diagnosed with OCD than men in with the lowest blood pressure in the group.
The findings have only been about men, so it is unclear if the results would be similar in women or not. However, they think women would be less likely than men to have as high of a correlation.
These findings are significant because it shows that high blood pressure and heart health is not only important at an older age but at all ages.
The authors stated, “In a large and representative sample of men, higher resting heart rate and blood pressure in late adolescence were associated with subsequent diagnoses of OCD, schizophrenia, and anxiety disorders, whereas lower resting heart rate and blood pressure were associated with subsequent diagnoses of substance use disorders and violent criminality.”