Negative Personality May Hurt Heart
Study Ties Combination of 4 Negative Traits to Men's Heart Disease Risk
Nov. 17, 2006 -- Men with a strong mix of anger, depression, hostility, and
anxiety may be more likely to develop coronary heart disease.
That's according to researchers including Edward Suarez, PhD, a Duke
University associate professor of psychiatry.
Heart disease is a leading cause of death for U.S. men and women. It affects
the heart and the coronary arteries which supply heart muscle with blood.
Coronary heart disease makes heart attacks more likely.
The study, published online in Psychosomatic Medicine, doesn't warn against
normal anger, anxiety, and other "negative" emotions most people
experience from time to time.
Also, it's important to remember that many factors -- including smoking, diabetes, and excess weight -- affect heart
Suarez and colleagues are designing a comprehensive intervention program to
help patients handle negative feelings and cut heart risks, states a Duke news
"We want to help people at earlier points in their life by teaching them
ways to cope with problems and how to make wiser choices that promote
health," Suarez says in the news release.
"By helping them before they ever show clinical signs of heart disease,
we may be able to help them avoid the disease altogether," he adds.
Personality and Heart Disease Study
Depression, anger, hostility, and anxiety have each been separately linked
to worse odds of getting coronary heart disease.
But those traits may tend to go together, note Suarez and colleagues.
In their study, they looked at 2,105 men who served in the U.S. Air Force
during the Vietnam War.
In 1985, the veterans were 47 years old, on average, and had no history of
The men got heart checkups and completed personality surveys to gauge their
anger, hostility, depression, and anxiety.
They were given scores for each of those personality traits, as well as a
combination score covering all four traits.
The men were then invited to get checkups in 1987, 1992, 1997, and 2002. On
average, they stuck with the study 15 years.
Anger, anxiety, depression, and hostility each independently predicted heart
But the mix of those traits, reflected in the combination score, "was
the most powerful predictor of heart disease," Suarez says.
The results take the men's age, blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, body mass
index (BMI) - a gauge for appropriate weight -- and smoking into
account. The findings were similar for men who had or hadn't worked with
herbicides such as Agent Orange in Vietnam.
The study doesn't prove negative personality traits cause heart disease. And
it doesn't show exactly how negative personality traits may have affected the
"The risk of developing coronary heart disease due to a combination of
negative personality traits in people has never before been explored,"
The data have some limitations since all participants were male veterans and
most were white. It's not clear if the findings apply to women or other groups
Suarez and his colleagues call for the findings to be checked in more
Meanwhile, your doctor can check your risk of developing heart disease and
help you come up with a plan for good heart health.