Asia-Pacific News

Volatile Markets Can Damage Your Health

Andrew Jack in London

Sharp moves in stock markets are closely correlated with a sharp jump in heart attacks, according to a new analysis of studies in the US and China.

Caroline Purser | Getty Images

Two recent academic articles have found a link between equity trends and coronary heart disease, suggesting the stock market volatility acts as a signal of health risks and may threaten investors who closely monitor their portfolios.

Bernstein Research, which highlighted the findings in a note issued on Monday, said they showed share performance had a greater statistical effect on heart attacks than cardiovascular drugs released in recent years.

Writing in the European Heart Journal, Wenjuan Ma at the school of public health at Fudan University and a team of co-authors, identified a strong link between stock market volatility and coronary heart disease deaths in Shanghai’s nine urban districts.

During the period 2006-08, which was associated with rapid share price fluctuations on the Shanghai stock exchange composite index, they tracked a 1.9 per cent average increase in deaths for each 1 per cent change in the index.

While stressing they could not prove a causal link, they stressed that many Chinese investors were “elderly retirees who spent much of their day sitting at the Stock Exchange hall to monitor the real-time performance of the stock ... “

“Both rising and falling of the stock markets may represent substantial emotional, psychological, and physical stress that may adversely affect cardiovascular health.”

Jack Scannell, a senior analyst with Bernstein, said: “The message for retail investors may be to not check your portfolio too often. If you do so every day, half the time you will be disappointed, if you do so only every decade, you’ll be let down less often.”

A separate study released last year in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology by Mona Fiuzat and colleagues at Duke University Medical Center found a rise in heart attacks linked to falls in the Nasdaq index during 2008-09.

“The three-month moving average of [heart attacks] events had an inverse relationship to the stock market trends. As stock market values decreased, the incidence of AMI increased, and decreased when stock trends improved. These data suggest the stock market trends may have an association with increased local [cardio-vascular] event rates,” they concluded.

They add to broader research suggesting a rise in health-related problems caused by the economic downturn and reduced access to medical systems in countries including Greece.