No rise in heart deaths after 2008 market crash in LA

Wed Mar 14, 2012 10:37am EDT
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(Reuters) - The 2008 stock market crash generated a lot of stress, but it did not trigger a spike in heart attack deaths -- at least, not in Los Angeles, according to a study.

Past studies have found upswings in heart-related deaths after a stressful mass event, anything from natural disasters such as earthquakes to sports disasters like a home team losing the Super Bowl.

But the current study, published in the American Journal of Cardiology, found no evidence that the October 2008 crash led to a spike in deaths, from heart problems or otherwise, in Los Angeles.

"It was surprising, given what other studies have found," said lead researcher Bryan Schwartz, of the Heart Institute at Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles.

What the findings suggested is that while the stock market crash was stressful, it may not have been an intense, personal emotional trigger for most Angelenos, he told Reuters Health.

There is plenty of research suggesting that for people with heart disease risk factors, such as high blood pressure or diabetes, acute stress can temporarily raise the odds of a cardiac "event" such as a heart attack.

Acute stress can be physical, like sudden heavy exertion, or it can be emotional, Schwartz said, noting that this study did not negate the importance of acute stress in heart risks.

But the stress surrounding the 2008 crash may not have been enough to cause a "population shift" in heart disease deaths, said Robert Kloner, senior researcher on the study.

The researchers set out to investigate a possible relation between a stock market crash and cardiac death in a large population within the United States. Their findings were based on LA county death certificate data and daily stock market figures for 2005 through the end of 2008.   Continued...

A heart-shaped balloon floats upward during the Seventh Anniversary September 11 Commemoration Ceremony held at Zuccotti Park in New York City, September 11, 2008. REUTERS/Patti Sapone/Pool