Traumatic life events may increase the risk for atrial fibrillation in women over the age of 45, according to a cross-sectional study published in The American Journal of Cardiology.

Researchers analyzed participants over the age of 45 who participated in the Women’s Health Study for psychosocial stress, acute stress, and chronic stress and the relationship these stressors had on atrial fibrillation

Participants filled out questionnaires dealing with acute, chronic, and lifetime stressors in 8 stress domains: work, work-family spillover, financial, traumatic life events, discrimination, partner stress, neighborhood stress, and negative life events in the past 5 years.

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A cumulative stress score was calculated weighing each stress domain. Atrial fibrillation was reported on a questionnaire and confirmed by a committee of physicians.

Of the 24,809 women included in the study, 953 had atrial fibrillation. In this subgroup, the mean age was 75.5 years old, 98.3% were white, 68.13% had a household income greater than $40,000, and 91.5% were diagnosed with hypertension.

Women with atrial fibrillation had significantly higher traumatic life event domain stress scores and significantly lower cumulative stress scores when compared to women without atrial fibrillation (P <.0001, for both). 

Future studies need to evaluate the causal relationship between the stressors and the development of atrial fibrillation, include a more diverse background of participants, and analyze asymptomatic atrial fibrillation.

The researchers concluded that there may be a relationship between traumatic life event stress and atrial fibrillation in women over the age of 45 years old.


Westcott SK, Beach LY, Matsushita F, et al. Relationship between psychosocial stressors and atrial fibrillation in women >45 years of age [published online August 17, 2018]. AM J Cardiol. doi: 10.1016/j.amjcard.2018.07.044