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Psychosom Med. 2006 Nov-Dec;68(6):844-50. Epub 2006 Nov 1.

Covariation of psychological attributes and incident coronary heart disease in U.S. Air Force veterans of the Vietnam war.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina 27710, USA.



The purpose of the present investigation was to examine the prospective associations of hostility, anger, depression, and anxiety, alone and in combination, to incident coronary heart disease (CHD).


Subjects were 2105 men who participated in the Air Force Health Study, a 20-year study designed to evaluate the effects of herbicide exposure on various health outcomes in Air Force veterans of Operation Ranch Hand. Psychological attributes were assessed in 1985 using scales constructed from the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory. Participants were followed for an average of 15 years for evidence of ischemic heart disease (International Classification of Diseases codes 410-414, 428.4, or 36). The relation between psychological attributes and CHD was examined with Cox proportional hazard models.


Adjusting for CHD risk factors, depression, anxiety, hostility, and trait anger were significant predictors of incident CHD. In addition, a factor analytically derived psychological risk factor composite score was the strongest predictor of CHD.


These results suggest that the covariation of hostility, anger, depression, and anxiety accounts for the increased risk of CHD associated with each individual factor. The results of this study challenge the conventional approach of examining these psychological attributes in isolation.

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