Objective: To determine the effects of cardiac rehabilitation interventions on patients with hostility, or unexpressed anger, a coronary heart disease risk factor that adversely affects morbidity and mortality after major coronary heart disease events.
Methods: Using validated questionnaires to evaluate behavioral characteristics and quality of life, we studied 500 consecutive patients before and after cardiac rehabilitation and compared a group of 65 patients with high levels of hostility with 435 patients with low levels of hostility.
Results: After rehabilitation, statistically significant improvements occurred in the total cohort in scores for anxiety, depression, and somatization, as well as total quality of life, but not in hostility score (-20%; P = .07). Patients with high levels of hostility had significant improvements in hostility scores as well as other behavioral characteristics (anxiety, depression, and somatization) and all quality-of-life components. These patients also improved exercise capacity, percent body fat, body mass index, and total cholesterol and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels. Compared with patients with low levels of hostility, those with high levels of hostility had greater relative improvements in hostility scores, as well as anxiety, general health, energy, mental health, and total quality-of-life scores, and had similar improvements in exercise capacity, obesity indexes, lipid levels, and other behavioral characteristics and quality-of-life measurements. After cardiac rehabilitation, the prevalence of high levels of hostility decreased by 40%, from 13% to 8% (P < .01).
Conclusions: These data suggest that cardiac rehabilitation reduces hostility and significantly improves quality of life and other behavioral characteristics in patients with high levels of hostility. We believe that greater attention should be directed at behavioral characteristics, including hostility, to enhance the primary and particularly the secondary prevention of coronary heart disease.