Association between diseases of despair and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease among insured adults in the USA: a retrospective cohort study from 2017 to 2021

Matthew Nudy, Kathleen Galper, Daniel George, Brent A. Williams, Jennifer L. Kraschnewski, Lawrence Sinoway, Emily Brignone

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Objectives To assess associations between diseases of despair (DoD) and incident atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD) among insured adults in the USA. Design Retrospective cohort study. Setting Highmark insurance claims data in the USA from 2017 to 2021. Participants Adults with at least 10 months of continuous insurance enrolment, no record of ASCVD in the 2016 baseline year and no missing data on study variables. Primary and secondary outcome measures Cox proportional hazard regression was used to calculate crude and adjusted hazard ratios (HR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) to assess risk of ASCVD (composite of ischaemic cardiomyopathy, non-fatal ischaemic stroke, peripheral arterial disease or non-fatal acute myocardial infarction) by baseline DoD overall, and by the component conditions comprising DoD (alcohol-related disorders, substance-related disorders, suicidality) individually and in combination. Results The DoD-exposed group had an age-adjusted rate of 20.5 ASCVD events per 1000 person-years, compared with 11.7 among the unexposed. In adjusted models, overall DoD was associated with increased risk of incident ASCVD (HR 1.42, 95% CI 1.36 to 1.47). Individually and in combination, component conditions of DoD were associated with higher risk for ASCVD relative to no DoD. Substance-related disorders were associated with 50% higher risk of incident ASCVD (HR 1.5, 95% CI 1.41 to 1.59), alcohol-related disorders and suicidality/intentional self-harm were associated with 33% and 30% higher risk, respectively (HR 1.33, 95% CI 1.26 to 1.41; HR 1.30, 95% CI 1.11 to 1.52). Co-occurring DoD components conferred higher risk still. The highest risk combination was substance-related disorders+suicidality (HR 2.01, 95% CI 1.44 to 2.82). Conclusions Among this cohort of insured adults, documented DoD was associated with increased ASCVD risk. Further research to understand and address cardiovascular disease prevention in those with DoD could reduce costs, morbidity and mortality. Further examination of overlapping structural factors that may be contributing to concurrent rises in ASCVD and DoD in the USA is needed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere074102
JournalBMJ open
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 6 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Medicine

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