Heart Attack Risk Doubled Due to Family Member’s Incarceration

News Brief by Ted Midthun


    According to Virginia Tech and University of Toronto researchers, men who as children experienced a family member that was incarcerated are approximately twice as likely to have a heart attack than those that did not experience these adversities. According to Bradley White, lead author of the study, even after heart attacks among men aged 50 or older were adjusted for possible risk factors, such as race, age, smoking, and obesity, the strong correlation still stood. The team even replicated the analysis with a larger survey, and the results continued to stand. Data collected from the two studies sampled more than 37,000 adults and although there was a link among men, women showed no correlation.

    Previous studies have documented other serious effects that incarcerations can have on youth, but little attention has been brought towards possible physical effects that can develop. Esme Fuller-Thompson at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Social Work points out that these results may be due to an increase of the hormone cortisol found in these men. Fuller-Thompson explains that, “some earlier research suggests childhood adversities may change the way individuals react to stress across the life course and this can impact the production of cortisol.” While future studies are needed to gather more information and the many roles that incarcerations play, this find is one that strengthens the ties between incarcerations and their dramatic effects on families.


Virginia Tech. "Incarceration of a parent during childhood may later add to men's heart attack risk: Researchers find association for men, none for women." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 February 2016. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/02/160204112226.htm>.