By Carolyn Khew, The Straits Times

It may not be just your finances that are hit when your shares plummet in value. A local study has found an association between stock market volatility and heart failure hospitalisation here.

Researchers from the National Heart Centre Singapore (NHCS) observed that whenever stock prices changed - regardless of whether they went up or down - there was an increase in hospitalisation for heart failure patients.

But the study, which was published recently in the International Journal Of Cardiology, found no impact on mortality, heart attacks and strokes.

The researchers looked at daily stock performance data from the Singapore Exchange (SGX) from 2001 to 2012 and compared it with the number of deaths, heart attacks, strokes and heart failure hospitalisation cases taken from national databases.

They then looked at the daily and weekly changes in the SGX and compared the data with the number of cardiovascular events and deaths.

Air pollution levels, which can have an effect on heart disease, were taken into account.

"The take-home message is that good health is not just about taking medication and the risk factors that can contribute to disease. The emotional well-being of the patient is also important," said Associate Professor Yeo Khung Keong, senior consultant at the department of cardiology in NHCS, who was involved in the research.

"Emotional well-being should be something that both patients and physicians take into account."

But Prof Yeo admitted that one limitation of the population-based study was that it was hard to determine the exact cause behind the association.

Researchers did not have access to data such as the patient's age, gender or whether he had invested in stocks or shares.

Dr Jonathan Yap, senior resident at the department of cardiology in NHCS, who was also involved in the research, said that stress due to the volatility in stock markets could be a reason accounting for increased heart failure hospitalisation.

But the stress does not just come from stock prices going down.

Intense emotional or physical stress can cause rapid and severe heart muscle weakness known as "broken heart syndrome".

"When stock prices go up, it's still an emotional thing," said Dr Yap. "When people encounter very happy events, it could also trigger heart failure. It's more a case of extreme emotions."

Financial consultant Poa Kheng Sin, 61, who makes long-term and short-term investments, said: "People who invest need to be financially and mentally prepared for the worst. If you're not prepared, then you shouldn't invest."