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People who worry about physical health may be at greater risk of mental health disorders, study reveals

Heart ribbon

People who frequently worry about their physical health are more at risk of developing a mental health disorder, a major study has revealed.

The research, published by the University of Houston, highlights the impact of “heart-focused” anxiety on mental wellbeing among ethnic groups.

According to the researchers, people have different responses to a racing heart. For some, it might simply be a sign to slow down on the coffee or to leave a stressful environment. For others, however, it could rapidly escalate into a panic attack and even a visit to the accident and emergency (A&E) department.

The research shows that those who experience the latter response are more likely to develop a mental health disorder than those able to control “heart-focused” anxiety.

But the research also reveals that those from different ethnic groups may be more at risk of “heart-focused” mental illness than others.

Those from the Latinx community, for example, are at the greatest risk. Latinx refers to people from Spain, Portugal or Latin American countries such as Mexico, Brazil and Argentina.

The researchers believe that this may be because this group are more likely to report mental health symptoms as physical symptoms. For example, anxiety may be reported as shallow breathing or a headache.

Commenting on the study, lead author Michael Zvolensky said: “This population also struggles with a lot of chronic physical health co-morbidities including heart disease and obesity, so this research is a good fit for a population who tends to blame mental health issues on physical ailments, which generates greater mental health risk.”

The latest figures suggest that around one in four people in the UK experience a mental health problem each year, with the most common illnesses being anxiety and depression.