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Social isolation and low mood accelerate coronary disease in women


A study published in the 2006 March issue of Psychotherapy & Psychosomatics by a Swedish group of investigators points to the effects of social isolation and low mood on the progression of coronary disease.

Although both depressive symptoms and social isolation in relation to coronary heart disease have been studied previously, few have examined their joint effects on coronary atherosclerosis progression in women.

Among the women enrolled in the Stockholm Female Coronary Angiography Study, Sweden, between 1991 and 1994, 102 were evaluated for coronary atherosclerosis progression using a computer-assisted standardized assessment, repeated quantitative coronary angiographic documentation, of the mean luminal diameter change over 3 years in 10 predefined coronary segments. Depressive symptoms and social isolation were assessed by standard questionnaires.

Multivariable controlled mixed model ANOVAs revealed that women who were both depressed and socially isolated had the greatest disease progression: their absolute mean luminal diameter decreased by 0.18 mm [95% confidence interval (CI) = 0.11-0.24] and their percent narrowing was 5.5% (95% CI = 3.6-7.4), whereas in women who lacked both psychological risk factors, the mean luminal diameter decrease was 0.04 mm and their percent narrowing was 0.9%.

These associations were independent of the baseline luminal diameter and standard risk factors, including age, smoking history, hypertension, and high-density lipoproteins. In women with coronary disease, depressive symptoms and social isolation in combination accelerated disease progression, suggesting a direct psychosocial effect on the atherosclerotic process. These findings provide an additional opportunity for therapeutic and preventive efforts against progression of coronary disease in women.

Kristina Orth-Gomér, MD, PhD | alfa
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