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Circulation. 1997 Feb 18;95(4):818-24.

Is worrying bad for your heart? A prospective study of worry and coronary heart disease in the Normative Aging Study.

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  • 1Department of Health and Social Behavior, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA 02120, USA.



Worry is an important component of anxiety, which recent work suggests is related to increased incidence of coronary heart disease (CHD). Chronic worry has also been associated with decreased heart rate variability. We hypothesized that high levels of worry may increase CHD risk.


We examined prospectively the relationship of worry with CHD incidence in the Normative Aging Study, an ongoing cohort of older men. In 1975, 1759 men free of diagnosed CHD completed a Worries Scale, indicating the extent to which they worried about each of five worry domains: social conditions, health, financial, self-definition, and aging. During 20 years of follow-up, 323 cases of incident CHD occurred: 113 cases of nonfatal myocardial infarction (MI); 86 cases of fatal CHD; and 124 cases of angina pectoris. Worry about social conditions was the domain most strongly associated with incident CHD. Compared with men reporting the lowest levels of social conditions worry, men reporting the highest levels had multivariate adjusted relative risks of 2.41 (95% CI, 1.40 to 4.13) for nonfatal MI and 1.48 (95% CI, 0.99 to 2.20) for total CHD (nonfatal MI and fatal CHD). A dose-response relation was found between level of worry and both nonfatal MI (P for trend, .002) and total CHD (P for trend, .04).


These results suggest that high levels of worry in specific domains may increase the risk of CHD in older men.

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