Stocks, Weather, and Heart Attacks

Is there a link between the stock market and heart health? Researchers from Duke University think there might be.

Researchers studied heart attack treatment data from Duke University’s hospital. They started with December 2007 — the beginning of the current recession — and stopped with the signs of economic recovery in July 2009. As Nasdaq stock market numbers sank, the number of heart attacks treated tended to rise.

During the period studied, close to one thousand people suffered heart attacks and were treated at Duke University. Researchers found that when the stock market recovered, the number of heart attacks went down… but when the stock market numbers were low, the number of heart attacks was higher.

On the one hand, it makes sense. Money can be a huge source of stress, and stress can contribute (with other factors) to heart disease. The stock market is traditionally a popular place to invest, and there probably aren’t many people who feel good about losing money. In a time when the economy is poor, money can become an even greater source of concern and stress.

On the other hand, a second analysis of the data showed that seasons of the year might have more influence than the stock market when it comes to heart health. The reanalysis suggested that heart attacks are more common in winter — making the stock market/heart attack correlation just a fluke.

Other studies have looked at the influence of major stress events — like Hurricane Katrina, earthquakes, and September 11th — on heart health… so the stock market study isn’t too far-fetched. In fact, a wider study is planned to help confirm or deny the link between heart health and stock market health.

Financial health and physical health… I don’t think it’s too far-fetched to find a link between the two. I’m not sure that you can use the stock market to predict heart health, necessarily, but this study can be a good reminder to take better care of yourself during stressful times — be it a tough economy, a natural disaster, or a personal crisis.