The greater the satisfaction, the greater the protection
While depression and anxiety have long been recognised as risk factors for heart disease, there is less certainty over the beneficial effects of a 'positive' psychological state.
Now, following a study of almost 8000 British civil servants, researchers say that a satisfying life is indeed good for the heart.
The civil servants - who were all members of the Whitehall II study cohort in the UK with an average age of 49 years - were questioned about seven specific areas of their everyday lives: love relationships, leisure activities, standard of living, job, family, sex, and one's self. They were asked to rate their satisfaction in each domain on a scale of 1 ('very dissatisfied') to 7 ('very satisfied'). Ratings for each domain were also combined to provide an average satisfaction score for their overall lives.
The participants' health records were then examined for coronary related deaths, non-fatal heart attack, and clinically verified angina over a follow-up period of around six years.
Happiness in four key areas -- job, family, sex and self
It was found that higher levels of overall life satisfaction were associated with a statistically significant 13 percent reduced risk of coronary heart disease. Satisfaction in four main areas -- job, family, sex and self -- was also associated with a 13 percent reduced risk of heart disease.
The reduced risk, however, was not associated with love relationships, leisure activities or standard of living, the researchers found.
The results of the study are published online July 4 by the European Heart Journal.(1)
The findings suggest that people at high risk for heart disease may benefit from programs to boost a positive state of mind, study author Dr. Julia Boehm, of Harvard School of Public Health, noted in the news release.
SOURCE: European Society of Cardiology, news release, July 4, 2011
Boehm JK, Peterson C, Kivimaki M, Kubzansky LD. Heart health when life is satisfying: evidence from the Whitehall II cohort study. Eur Heart J 2011; doi:10.1093/eurheartj/ehr203
The American Heart Association offers ways to fight stress.