Hostility in women does not affect their long term heart health

November 14, 2005

A permanent hostility towards others, long regarded as a component of type A personality, does not affect the long term heart health of women, suggests research in Heart. But the same is not true of men.

The results contradict those of previous studies in the field, say the authors.

The findings are based on a population study of more than 3,000 adults in Nova Scotia, Canada, all of whom were selected at random. Evidence of coronary artery heart disease was found in 139 men and 88 women, a rate of 7%.

Known risk factors for heart disease were assessed in this group, including age, smoking habit, exercise, cholesterol levels, family history, weight, and diabetes.

Their personality type was also assessed, looking in particular at their levels of hostility. This is a key component of type A personality, which has been linked to increased risk of poor heart health.

The group were then monitored for four years for episodes of illness or hospital admission related to their heart disease.

The 'hostility' scores among the two sexes were similar. But men with high scores tended to be heavier and had a poorer cholesterol profile than men with lower scores. Women with high scores were significantly more likely to have diabetes.

During the monitoring period, almost half of the group experienced recurrent episodes of poor heart health, including admission to hospital. Four people died. Recurrence rates were similar among the sexes.

But there was a sex difference in the impact of hostility. After taking account of other influential factors men with high hostility scores were twice as likely to have recurrent episodes of poor heart health as men with low hostility scores.

But there was no difference among the women, irrespective of their hostility scores.

It is unclear how hostility affects cardiovascular health, say the authors, but they suggest that hostility management may be helpful in men to prevent recurrent heart disease.

BMJ Specialty Journals

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