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Circulation. 1998 Jan 20;97(2):167-73.

Personality, disease severity, and the risk of long-term cardiac events in patients with a decreased ejection fraction after myocardial infarction.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, University of Antwerp, Belgium.



Patients with myocardial infarction (MI) with a decreased left ventricular ejection fraction (LVEF) have a poor prognosis, but the role of emotional stress in prognosis is not known. We hypothesized that emotional stress in these patients (1) is unrelated to the severity of cardiac disorder, (2) predicts cardiac events, and (3) is a function of basic personality traits.


Eighty-seven patients with MI (age, 41 to 69 years) with an LVEF of < or =50% underwent psychological assessment at baseline. Patients and their families were contacted after 6 to 10 years (mean, 7.9 years); cardiac events were defined as cardiac death or nonfatal MI. Emotional distress was unrelated to the severity of cardiac disorder. At follow-up, 21 patients had experienced a cardiac event (13 fatal events). These events were related to LVEF of < or =30%, poor exercise tolerance, previous MI, anxiety, anger, and depression (all P< or =.02). Patients with a distressed personality (type D; ie, the tendency to suppress negative emotions) were more likely to experience an event over time compared with non-type D patients (P=.00005). Cox proportional hazards analysis yielded LVEF of < or =30% (relative risk, 3.0; 95% confidence interval, 1.2 to 7.7; P=.02) and type D (relative risk, 4.7; 95% confidence interval, 1.9 to 11.8; P=.001) as independent predictors. Anxiety, anger, and depression did not add to the predictive power of type D; these negative emotions were highly correlated and reflected the personality domain of negative affectivity.


Personality influences the clinical course of patients with a decreased LVEF. Emotional distress in these patients is unrelated to disease severity but reflects individual differences in personality. Clinical trials should take a broad view of the target of intervention; assessment of LVEF and personality may identify patients at risk.

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