Association between psychological distress and liver disease mortality: A meta-analysis of individual study participants

Tom C. Russ*, Mika Kivimäki, Joanne R. Morling, John M. Starr, Emmanuel Stamatakis, G. David Batty

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Citations (Scopus)


Background & Aims Risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as obesity and hypertension, have been associated with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Psychological distress (symptoms of anxiety and depression) is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, so it might also be associated, directly or indirectly, with liver disease. We investigated the relationship between psychological distress (measured by the 12-item General Health Questionnaire [GHQ]) and liver disease mortality. Methods We performed a meta-analysis of data from individual participants in 16 prospective studies of the general population in the United Kingdom, initiated from 1994 through 2008. Subjects were assigned to groups based on GHQ score: 0 (no distress), 1-3, 4-6, or 7-12. Results We analyzed data from 166,631 individuals (55% women; mean ± SD age, 46.6 ± 18.4 years; range, 16-102 years). During a mean follow-up period of 9.5 years, 17,368 participants died (457 with liver disease). We found a significant increase in liver disease mortality with increase in GHQ score (Ptrend <.001). The age- and sex-adjusted hazard ratio for the highest GHQ score category (ie, 7-12), compared with the 0 score category, was 3.48 (95% confidence interval: 2.68-4.52). After adjustment for health behaviors, socioeconomic status, body mass index, and diabetes, this hazard ratio decreased to 2.59 (95% confidence interval: 1.82-3.68). Conclusions Based on a meta-analysis, psychological distress is associated with liver disease mortality, although this finding requires additional analysis. Although one is not likely to cause the other, we provide additional evidence for the deleterious effects of psychological problems on physical health.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)958-966.e4
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2015
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 AGA Institute.


  • Cirrhosis
  • GHQ-12
  • Mental Health
  • Steatosis


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