Hostility increased risk in men with heart disease
By Anne Harding
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Men with heart disease who have
high levels of hostility are more than twice as likely as men
with more trusting personalities to get sick or require
hospitalization for heart-related causes.
But researchers found no such association between hostility
and recurrent heart disease in women.
As defined in the study, hostility does not necessarily
mean aggression or anger, but instead having a personality
characterized by suspicion of others, cynical views, and
resentfulness toward and impatience with other people, Dr.
Donald Haas of the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York
City, the study’s lead author, told Reuters Health. This
personality type is a refinement of the heart disease-linked
“type A” personality first described in the 1980s, he added.
Haas and his colleagues studied 139 men and 88 women with
coronary heart disease. All had completed a personality test
called the Cook-Medley Hostility scale.
Over the following four years, men with high hostility
scores were more than twice as likely as those with low scores
to become ill from or be hospitalized due to heart
disease-related causes. However, women’s hostility levels had
no relationship to their heart health.
People with hostile personalities, Haas noted, are less
likely to follow instructions and may be less willing to adhere
to their doctor’s recommendations, which may help explain the
He pointed out that while past studies have tied hostility
to heart health in women, the participants in these studies
were volunteers, and thus perhaps less hostile than average.
The current study, which included people randomly selected from
the population, may provide a more accurate evaluation of heart
risk and hostility, Haas said.
The mechanism responsible for the different gender effect
is not clear, he said, although some research has suggested
that men show a stronger response to stressful cues in the
environment than women do.
While it’s much to early to say that treating hostility
could improve heart disease risk — and it’s inaccurate to talk
about “treating it,” since it’s a personality trait rather than
a disorder — cognitive behavioral therapy has been shown to
reduce hostility and to also lower blood pressure levels, Haas
said. “It’s worth pursuing and studying.”
SOURCE: Heart, December 2005.