Heart Health When Life is Satisfying: Evidence from the Whitehall II Cohort Study

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Aims Negative psychological states such as stress and depression are associated with increased risk of coronary heart disease (CHD), but it is unclear whether some positive states are protective. We investigated satisfaction with specific life domains as predictors of incident CHD.

Methods and results Coronary risk factors and satisfaction within seven life domains (e.g. job and family) were assessed in 7956 initially healthy members of the Whitehall II cohort. Incident CHD (angina, non-fatal myocardial infarction, or death from CHD) was ascertained from medical screening, hospital data, and registry linkage over five person-years of followup. Satisfaction averaged across domains was associated with reduced CHD risk (HR: 0.87; 95% CI: 0.78–0.98), controlling for demographic characteristics, health behaviours, blood pressure, and metabolic functioning. Associations with CHD risk were evident for satisfaction in four life domains—one’s job, family, sex life, and self, but not one’s love relationship, leisure activities, or standard of living. When examining CHD outcomes separately, average domain satisfaction was associated with angina but not myocardial infarction or coronary death.

Conclusions Satisfaction in most life domains was associated with reduced CHD risk, with definite angina being mostly responsible for this association. These findings suggest that satisfaction with life may promote heart health. Further research should examine whether interventions to enhance life satisfaction in specific domains reduce CHD risk and whether life satisfaction is primarily associated with atherosclerosis rather than thrombotic factors associated with plaque rupture.


This article was published in European Heart Journal, volume 32, issue 21 in 2011. DOI: 10.1093/eurheartj/ehr203.


Oxford University Press