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Psychological aspects of atrial fibrillation: A systematic narrative review

  • Ladwig, Karl-Heinz1, 2, 3
  • Goette, Andreas4, 5
  • Atasoy, Seryan1, 3, 6
  • Johar, Hamimatunnisa2, 6
  • 1 Technische Universität München (TUM), Langerstr. 3, Munich, 81675, Germany , Munich (Germany)
  • 2 Helmholtz Zentrum München, Neuherberg, Germany , Neuherberg (Germany)
  • 3 Partner site Munich Heart Alliance, Munich, Germany , Munich (Germany)
  • 4 Medizinischen Klinik II, Paderborn, Germany , Paderborn (Germany)
  • 5 University Hospital Magdeburg, Magdeburg, Germany , Magdeburg (Germany)
  • 6 University of Gießen and Marburg, Marburg, Germany , Marburg (Germany)
Published Article
Current Cardiology Reports
Publication Date
Sep 10, 2020
DOI: 10.1007/s11886-020-01396-w
Springer Nature


Purpose of the reviewAtrial fibrillation (AF) is the most frequent arrhythmia in the general population. This review aims to provide a comprehensive overview of the psychological aspects of AF, compiling evidence from epidemiological, clinical, and basic research sources.Recent findingsFindings from large-scale population-based and clinical longitudinal studies reveal an association between negative affectivity (e.g. depression) and the incidence and clinical prognosis of AF. Studies investigating the impact of work stress parameters on AF onset show conflicting results. Researchers have reported the impact of AF on cognitive decline and on health-related quality of life, and have highlighted the role of interoceptive cues in the development of AF symptom burden and gender differences in psychological covariates of AF. Among biological pathways linking psychosocial factors to AF, research on autonomic regulation has yielded the most evidence so far, showing that the onset of AF is associated with simultaneous sympatho-vagal activation rather than an increase in vagal or sympathetic drive alone. Thus, modulation of the autonomic nervous system is likely to be a promising strategy for protecting the myocardium from pro-arrhythmic autonomic influences.SummaryIn total, the findings show that AF is embedded as a disease condition in a psycho-societal context and is not an isolated medical problem per se. A broader perspective than a focus on the electrophysiology alone is urgently needed.

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