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New research links stroke death risk with cost of economic downturns

Unemployment and reduced government healthcare spending are factors which could put people at higher risk of dying from stroke. These are the latest findings from a worldwide study presented at the 2014 UK Stroke Forum, hosted by the .

Researchers at used data from 99 countries over a 28 year period to investigate the link between economic crises and mortality due to stroke(i). The results provided the following findings;

  • Increases in unemployment were associated with significant rises in mortality due to stroke(ii).
  • Rises in government healthcare expenditure were associated with significant reductions in mortality.
  • These associations maintained even when controlling for changes in gross domestic product per capita, inflation, interest rates, urbanisation, nutrition, education and out-of-pocket spending

Stroke is the second biggest cause of death in the world, and the condition takes a life every five seconds. In the UK, stroke kills more than 40,000 people every year.

Alun Davies, Professor of Vascular Surgery at Imperial College London, said: “In recent years, the global population has faced a major economic crisis, with several countries experiencing increased unemployment rates and reduced funding for healthcare. Our findings indicate that this could have had a significant impact on our health – specifically cerebrovascular disease, through reduced access to emergency medical treatment, for example.

“The results also link rising unemployment rates with a higher risk of death from cerebrovascular disease. There are a range of possible reasons for this, for example, stress can lead to higher blood pressure, which is a key controllable risk factor for stroke.”

Joe Korner, Director of External Affairs at the Stroke Association, said: “This analysis is the first to look at whether there is a connection between the number of people dying from stroke and economic downturns. Its findings suggest that the cost of a recession could be people’s lives.

“In recent years, we’ve seen important strides in the way stroke is treated as a medical emergency. However, it’s clear that health service cuts could limit emergency care available to thousands of people, putting them at increased risk of death following a stroke.

“It is also extremely concerning that unemployment could put people in danger of dying from stroke. These latest figures could bring us closer to identifying the factors that leave unemployed people at increased risk of death following a stroke, such as high blood pressure, for example.”

Source

(i) Cerebrovascular disease, classified under the International Classification Diseases codes as haemorrhagic stroke, cerebral infarction, transient cerebral ischaemic attack, cerebral aneurysm, cerebral atherosclerosis, other cerebrovascular disease and sequelae of cerebrovascular disease

(ii) Cerebrovascular disease, classified under the International Classification Diseases codes as haemorrhagic stroke, cerebral infarction, transient cerebral ischaemic attack, cerebral aneurysm, cerebral atherosclerosis, other cerebrovascular disease and sequelae of cerebrovascular disease

Source: Stroke Association