Background: A large number of studies have reported on the psychosocial risk factor pattern prior to coronary heart disease events, but few have investigated the situation during the first year after an event, and none has been controlled. We therefore performed a case-referent study in which the prevalence of a number of psychosocial factors was evaluated.
Methods: Three hundred and forty-six coronary heart disease male and female cases no more than 75 years of age, discharged from hospital within the past 12 months, and 1038 referents from the general population, matched to the cases by age, sex and place of living, received a postal questionnaire in which information on lifestyle, psychosocial and quality of life measures were sought.
Results: The cases were, as expected, on sick leave to a larger extent than the referents, reported poorer fitness, poorer perceived health, fewer leisure time activities, but unexpectedly reported better social support, and more optimistic views of the future than the referents. There were no significant case-referent differences in everyday life stress, stressful life events, vital exhaustion, depressive mood, coping or life orientation test. However, women reported less favourable situations than men regarding stressful life events affecting others, vital exhaustion, depressive mood, coping, self-esteem, sleep, and symptom reporting, and female cases reported the most unfavourable situation of all groups.
Conclusion: In this first controlled study of the situation during the first year after a CHD event disease and gender status both appeared to be determinants of psychological well-being, with gender status apparently the strongest. This may have implications for cardiac rehabilitation programmes.