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Circulation. 1994 Nov;90(5):2225-9.

Symptoms of anxiety and risk of coronary heart disease. The Normative Aging Study.

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  • 1Department of Health and Social Behavior, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA 02115.



Several studies have suggested an increased risk of fatal coronary heart disease (CHD) among patients with panic disorder, phobic anxiety, and other anxiety disorders. We prospectively examined this association in the Normative Aging Study.


An anxiety symptoms scale was constructed out of five items from the Cornell Medical Index, which was administered to the cohort at baseline. During 32 years of follow-up, we observed 402 cases of incident coronary heart disease (137 cases of nonfatal myocardial infarction, 134 cases of angina pectoris, and 131 cases of fatal CHD: made up of 26 cases of sudden cardiac death and 105 cases of nonsudden death). A nested case-control design (involving 1869 control subjects who remained free of diagnosed CHD) was used to assess the association between anxiety and risk of CHD. Compared with men reporting no symptoms of anxiety, men reporting two or more anxiety symptoms had elevated risks of fatal CHD (age-adjusted odds ratio [OR] = 3.20, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.27 to 8.09), and sudden death (age-adjusted OR = 5.73, 95% CI: 1.26 to 26.1). The multivariate OR after adjusting for a range of potential confounding variables was 1.94 (95% CI: 0.70-5.41) for fatal CHD and 4.46 (95% CI: 0.92-21.6) for sudden death. No excess risks were found for nonfatal myocardial infarction or angina.


These data suggest an association between anxiety and fatal coronary heart disease, in particular, sudden cardiac death.

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