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N Bergmann, F Gyntelberg, and J Faber

Chronic psychosocial stress has been proposed as a risk factor for the development of the metabolic syndrome (MES). This review gives a systematic overview of prospective cohort studies investigating chronic psychosocial stress as a risk factor for incident MES and the individual elements of MES. Thirty-nine studies were included. An association between chronic psychosocial stress and the development of MES was generally supported. Regarding the four elements of MES: i) weight gain: the prospective studies supported etiological roles for relationship stress, perceived stress, and distress, while the studies on work-related stress (WS) showed conflicting results; ii) dyslipidemi: too few studies on psychosocial stress as a risk factor for dyslipidemia were available to draw a conclusion; however, a trend toward a positive association was present; iii) type 2 diabetes mellitus (DM2): prospective studies supported perceived stress and distress as risk factors for the development of DM2 among men, but not among women, while WS was generally not supported as a risk factor among neither men nor women; iv) hypertension: marital stress and perceived stress might have an influence on blood pressure (BP), while no association was found regarding distress. Evaluating WS the results were equivocal and indicated that different types of WS affected the BP differently between men and women. In conclusion, a longitudinal association between chronic psychosocial stress and the development of MES seems present. However, the number of studies with sufficient quality is limited and the design of the studies is substantially heterogeneous.