Feeling excessively tired, devoid of energy, demoralised and irritable? You may have burnout, a syndrome associated with a potentially deadly heart rhythm disturbance, say researchers.
"Vital exhaustion, commonly referred to as burnout syndrome, is typically caused by prolonged and profound stress at work or home, it differs from depression, which is characterised by low mood, guilt and poor self-esteem," said study author Parveen K Garg of the University of Southern California in the US.
"The results of our study further established the harm that can be caused in people who suffer from exhaustion that goes unchecked," Garg added.
Atrial fibrillation is the most common form of heart arrhythmia.
Psychological distress has been suggested as a risk factor for atrial fibrillation, but previous studies showed mixed results.
In addition, until now, the specific association between vital exhaustion and atrial fibrillation had not been evaluated.
For the study, published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, the researchers surveyed more than 11,000 individuals for the presence of vital exhaustion, anger, antidepressant use and poor social support.
They then followed them over a period of nearly 25 years for the development of atrial fibrillation.
Participants with the highest levels of vital exhaustion were at a 20 per cent higher risk of developing atrial fibrillation over the course of follow-up compared to those with little to no evidence of vital exhaustion.
While further study is needed to better understand the observed relationship, Garg noted that two mechanisms are likely at play.
"Vital exhaustion is associated with increased inflammation and heightened activation of the body's physiologic stress response," he said.
"When these two things are chronically triggered that can have serious and damaging effects on the heart tissue, which could then eventually lead to the development of this arrhythmia," the study author added.
No connections were found between anger, antidepressant use, or poor social support and development of atrial fibrillation.
"It is already known that exhaustion increases one's risk for cardiovascular disease, including heart attack and stroke. We now report that it may also increase one's risk for developing atrial fibrillation, a potentially serious cardiac arrhythmia," Garg said.
"The importance of avoiding exhaustion through careful attention to - and management of - personal stress levels as a way to help preserve overall cardiovascular health cannot be overstated," he concluded.