Summary: Study finds link between diastolic blood pressure and increased risk of neurotic personality traits. Blood pressure control can help reduce anxiety, depression and neuroticism.
Diastolic blood pressure – the lower of two numbers in a blood pressure reading – is highly likely to cause a neurotic personality trait, according to research published in the open-access journal General psychiatry.
And keeping it under control can help curb neurotic behaviors, anxiety, and heart and circulatory disease, the researchers conclude.
High blood pressure is a major risk for cardiovascular disease and is thought to be associated with psychological factors, such as anxiety, depression and neuroticism, a personality trait characterized by sensitivity to negative emotions, including anxiety and depression.
But who causes what is not entirely clear.
To try 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 to support a causal relationship, thereby reducing the biases inherent in observational studies.
Between 30% and 60% of blood pressure is due to genetic factors, and more than 1000 genetic single nucleotide polymorphisms, or SNPs for short, are associated with it. SNPs help predict a person’s response to certain drugs, their susceptibility to environmental factors, and their risk of developing diseases.
The researchers relied on 8 large-scale study datasets containing whole-genome DNA extracted from blood samples from people of mostly European ancestry (genome-wide association studies).
They applied Mendelian randomization to 4 characteristics of blood pressure: systolic blood pressure (736,650 samples), diastolic blood pressure (736,650), pulse pressure (systolic minus diastolic blood pressure; 736,650) and hypertension. blood pressure (greater than 140/90 mm Hg; 463,010) with 4 psychological states: anxiety (463,010 samples), depressive symptoms (180,866), neuroticism (170,911) and subjective well-being (298,420).
The analysis found 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 tests, only diastolic blood pressure was significantly associated with neuroticism (more than 90%), based on 1074 SNPs.
The researchers recognize some limitations to their findings. For example, it was not possible to completely rule out pleiotropy, where one gene can affect multiple traits. And the results may not be more widely applicable beyond people of European descent.
But blood pressure connects the brain and the heart, and therefore can promote the development of personality traits, they explain.
“People 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 causative factor in anxiety and mood disorders. People with neuroticism more frequently experience elevated mental stress, which may lead to increased [blood pressure] and cardiovascular disease,” they write.
And they suggest: “Appropriate monitoring and control of blood pressure may be beneficial for the reduction of neuroticism, neuroticism-inducing mood disorders, and cardiovascular disease.
About this personality research news
Original research: The findings will appear in General psychiatry