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Am J Epidemiol. 2010 Mar 1;171(5):522-31. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwp414. Epub 2009 Dec 24.

Psychosocial risk factors and retinal microvascular signs: the multi-ethnic study of atherosclerosis.

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Department of Epidemiology, University of Washington, Seattle,Washington, USA.


The association between psychosocial risk factors and retinal microvascular signs was examined in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis. Subjects were recruited from Baltimore, Maryland; Chicago, Illinois; Forsyth County, North Carolina; Los Angeles County, California; New York, New York; and St. Paul, Minnesota. Levels of depressive symptoms, trait anger, trait anxiety, chronic burdens, emotional support, and cynical distrust were assessed by questionnaire (from July 2000 to July 2002). Digital retinal images (from August 2002 to January 2004) from 6,147 participants were used to evaluate retinopathy and retinal vascular caliber. After controlling for potential confounding factors, the authors found that subjects without access to emotional support (Enriched Social Support Instrument score of <19 vs. > or = 19) had 60% greater odds of retinopathy (odds ratio = 1.6, 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.3, 2.0). Subjects with high Spielberger trait-anxiety scale scores (> or = 22 vs. < or = 14) and subjects with high depressive symptoms (Center for Epidemiology Studies Depression Scale score, > or = 16 vs. <16) were also more likely to have retinopathy (odds ratio = 1.4, 95% CI: 1.1, 1.9 and odds ratio = 1.5, 95% CI: 1.2, 1.9), respectively. In this cross-sectional study, lack of emotional support, increased trait anxiety, and more depressive symptoms were associated with retinopathy signs, independently of other known risk factors.

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