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Hypertension. 1999 Apr;33(4):1057-61.

Alexithymia: a facet of essential hypertension.

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Research and Development Centre of the Social Insurance Institution, Turku, Finland.


Two hundred thirty-seven newly diagnosed yet untreated hypertensive men and women, 35 to 54 years of age, were compared with an age- and gender-stratified random population sample of 146 normotensive men and women to find out whether psychological distress symptoms, anger expression, and alexithymia are associated with elevated blood pressure and whether the possible associations are independent of sodium and alcohol intake, body mass index, and physical fitness. The independent attributes of mean arterial pressure were studied by multivariate regression analyses after combining the subjects in the hypertensive and control groups. Three questionnaires were used: the Brief Symptom Inventory (BSI-37), a 31-item version of the Spielberger State-Trait Anger Expression Inventory (STAXI), and the Toronto Alexithymia Scale (TAS-26). Total scores of the TAS-26 were higher (P<0.001) in hypertensive men and women than in their normotensive control subjects (75.6+/-7.8 vs 64.1+/-9.8 in men and 72.9+/-7.1 vs 57.5+/-11.5 in women). There were no differences between the study and control groups in psychological distress symptoms, including anxiety, depression, and hostility, or in anger expression. In multivariate regression analyses, higher age, male gender, higher sodium intake, lower physical fitness, and alexithymia were independently and highly significantly (P<0.01 for male gender, P<0.0001 for other variables) associated with increased blood pressure, explaining altogether 39.5% of the cross-sectional variation in mean arterial pressure. We conclude that alexithymia, that is, poor ability to experience and express emotions, is associated with elevated blood pressure independent of sodium and alcohol intake, body mass index, and physical fitness.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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