Panic in postmenopausal women closely linked to comorbidity

January 1, 2004



Almost one out of every five postmenopausal women has had a panic attack in the past 6 months, according to the Myocardial Ischemia and Migraine Study, a 10-center ancillary study of the 40-center Women's Health Initiative.

The cross-sectional survey of over 3,300 women between the ages of 50 and 79 found that full-blown panic attacks are highly associated with medical comorbidity. Women with a history of migraine, for example, are six times more likely to report full-blown panic than women without headaches. Women who are depressed are more than five times as likely to report a panic attack. Similarly, emphysema and angina each increased the likelihood of a panic attack about four times, cardiovascular disease nearly tripled the risk, and reported chest pain during ambulatory electrocardiography increased the risk two and one half times.

In addition, the researchers confirmed that such attacks impair function and are associated in a dose-response manner with negative life events during the past year.

Smoller JW, Pollack MH, Wassertheil-Smoller S, et al. Prevalence and correlates of panic attack in postmenopausal women. Arch Intern Med. 2003;163:2141-2050.