Association of fear of terror with low-grade inflammation among apparently healthy employed adults.Psychosom Med. 2004 Jul-Aug; 66(4):484-91.PM
Based on evidence that psychological stress may induce a chronic inflammatory process, we hypothesized that the stress caused by chronic fear of terror may be associated with low-grade inflammation. This hypothesis was examined in employed men and women with the presence of low-grade inflammation measured by high sensitivity C-reactive protein (CRP).
Apparently healthy employed adults (N = 1153) undergoing periodic health check-ups in a tertiary hospital in Israel completed a questionnaire. Fear of terror (scored 1-5) was assessed by three items measuring the extent to which respondents have deep concern for personal safety, elevated tension in crowded places, and fear of terror strikes causing harm to one's self or one's family members. The main outcome measure was the presence or absence of an elevated CRP level (>3.0 mg/L).
Women scored significantly higher on fear of terror compared with men (M = 2.16 vs. M = 1.68, respectively; p <.0001). Most of the study participants who scored high (4 or 5) on fear of terror, reported having experienced this feeling for 1 year or more. In women only, there was a positive association between fear of terror and risk of elevated CRP level (adjusted OR = 1.7, 95% CI 1.2-2.4) in a multivariate model adjusting for generalized anxiety, depressive symptoms, and potentially confounding demographic and biomedical variables.
Chronic fear of terror in women, but not in men, is associated with elevated CRP levels, which suggests the presence of low-grade inflammation and a potential risk of cardiovascular disease.