Perceived stress is associated with subclinical cerebrovascular disease in older adults

Neelum T. Aggarwal, Cari J. Clark, Todd L. Beck, Carlos F Mendes De Leon, Charles DeCarli, Denis A. Evans, Susan A Everson Rose

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Objective: To examine the association of perceived stress with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) markers of subclinical cerebrovascular disease in an elderly cohort. Methods: Using a cross-sectional study of a community-based cohort in Chicago, 571 adults (57% women; 58.1% African American; 41.9% non-Hispanic white; mean [SD] age: 79.8 [5.9] years) from the Chicago Health and Aging Project, an epidemiologic study of aging, completed questionnaires on perceived stress, medical history, and demographics as part of an in-home assessment and 5 years later underwent a clinical neurologic examination and MRI of the brain. Outcome measures were volumetric MRI assessments of white matter hyperintensity volume (WMHV), total brain volume (TBV), and cerebral infarction. Results: Stress was measured with six items from the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS); item responses, ranging from never (0) to often (3), were summed to create an overall stress score (mean [SD]: 4.9 [3.3]; range: 0-18). Most participants had some evidence of vascular disease on MRI, with 153 participants (26.8%) having infarctions. In separate linear and logistic regression models adjusted for age, sex, education, race, and time between stress assessment and MRI, each one-point increase in PSS score was associated with significantly lower TBV (coefficient = -0.111, SE = 0.049, t[563] = -2.28, p = 0.023) and 7% greater odds of infarction (odds ratio: 1.07; 95% confidence interval: 1.01, 1.13; Wald ×2[1] = 4.90; p = 0.027). PSS scores were unrelated to WMHV. Results wereunchanged with further adjustment for smoking, body mass index, physical activity, history of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, hypertension, depressive symptoms, and dementia. Conclusions: Greater perceived stress was significantly and independently associated with cerebral infarction and lower brain volume assessed 5 years later in this elderly cohort.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)53-62
Number of pages10
JournalAmerican Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2014


  • Biracial population sample
  • MR measures
  • Perceived stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Medicine(all)


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