Psychological consequences of screening for cardiovascular risk factors in an un-selected general population: results from the Inter99 randomised intervention study

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Background: Concerns that general health checks, including screening for risk factors to ischemic heart disease (IHD),have negative psychological consequences seem widely unfounded; however, previous studies are only based on selfreports from participants.
Aim: To investigate if risk factor screening in healthy adults leads to mental distress in the study population, independent of participation.
Methods: The Inter99 study (1999 – 2006) was a randomised intervention in the general population, aiming to prevent IHD by a healthier lifestyle. We included the whole study population, independent ofparticipation (n = 60,915). We merged data with information on the use of psychotropic medication and/or hospitalisation due to psychiatric diagnoses, as retrieved from national registers in Denmark, 4 years before and 5 years after the study began. We conducted analyses using generalised estimating equations.
Results: There was no significant difference between the intervention and control groups in their use of antipsychotics, hypnotics/sedatives, antidepressants or anxiolytics. As regards admission to the hospital with mental disorders, no significant difference was seen. These findings were true based on a yearly basis, and when investigating both short-term and a long-term effects of the intervention. There was no interaction with socioeconomic status. Of the 918 persons with a psychiatric diagnosis before the study start, 303 (33%) were re-admitted in the intervention period. Pre-screening of psychological status did not influence the psychological impact of screening.
Conclusions: This large, randomised intervention study supports that screening for risk factors to IHD does not increase mental distress, not even in the mentally or socioeconomically most vulnerable persons.This study included the whole Inter99 study population (not only study participants).
Original languageEnglish
JournalScandinavian Journal of Public Health
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)102-110
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2015

ID: 140496012