High likelihood of blood pressure causing a neurotic personality trait
Summary: Study reveals link between diastolic blood pressure and increased risk of neurotic personality traits. Controlling blood pressure can help reduce anxiety, depression and neuroticism.
Diastolic blood pressure – the lower of the two numbers on a blood pressure reading – is highly likely to cause a neurotic personality trait, according to research published in an open access journal. General psychiatry.
And keeping it under control can help curb neurotic behavior, anxiety and cardiovascular disease, the researchers conclude.
High blood pressure is a major risk for cardiovascular disease and is thought to be linked to psychological factors, such as anxiety, depression and neuroticism – a personality trait characterized by susceptibility to negative emotions, including anxiety and depression.
But what are the causes is not entirely clear.
In an attempt to find out, the researchers used a technique called Mendelian randomization. This uses genetic variants as a proxy for a particular risk factor—in this case, blood pressure—to obtain genetic evidence supporting a causal relationship, reducing the biases inherent in observational studies.
Between 30% and 60% of blood pressure is caused by genetic factors, and over 1,000 genetic single nucleotide polymorphisms, or SNPs for short, are associated with it. SNPs help predict a person’s response to certain drugs, susceptibility to environmental factors, and risk of developing disease.
The researchers relied on 8 sets of large studies containing genome-wide DNA extracted from blood samples of people of predominantly European descent (genome-wide association studies).
They applied Mendelian randomization to 4 blood pressure traits – systolic blood pressure (736,650 samples), diastolic blood pressure (736,650), pulse pressure (systolic minus diastolic blood pressure; 736,650) and high blood pressure (above 140/90 mm Hg 463,010) with 4 psychological conditions – anxiety (463,010 samples), depressive symptoms (180,866), neuroticism (170,911) and subjective well-being (298,420).
The analysis revealed that high blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure had significant causal effects on neuroticism, but not on anxiety, depressive symptoms, or subjective well-being.
But after adjusting for multiple testing, only diastolic blood pressure was significantly associated with neuroticism (over 90%), based on 1074 SNPs.
The researchers acknowledge some limitations to their findings. For example, it was not possible to completely rule out pleiotropy – where a single gene can influence several traits. And the findings may not be broadly applicable beyond people of European descent.
But blood pressure connects the brain and the heart, and so can promote the development of personality traits, they explain.
“Individuals with neuroticism can be sensitive to criticism from others, are often self-critical, and easily develop anxiety, anger, worry, hostility, self-consciousness, and depression.
“Neuroticism is considered a key causal factor in anxiety and mood disorders. People with neuroticism more often experience high mental stress, which can lead to elevated [blood pressure] and cardiovascular diseases”, they write.
And they suggest: “Appropriate monitoring and control of blood pressure may be beneficial in reducing neuroticism, neuroticism-inducing mood disorders, and cardiovascular disease.”
About this personality research
Original Research: Findings will appear in General psychiatry
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