Introduction: We assessed the emotional components expressed by the spouses of patients at the first episode of acute myocardial infarction (AMI) and considered potential underlying links among these components and the course of the cardiac symptoms over time. This was an exploratory prospective cohort study.
Methods: A sample of 50 consecutive male inpatients with a diagnosis of AMI and their wives was studied. At baseline spouses were assessed with the Camberwell Family Interview and ratings of Expressed Emotion were made. Patients completed the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI XI-X2) and the Beck's Depression Inventory (BDI). After 12 months (T1), during appropriate treatment by a cardiologist blinded to the Expressed Emotion ratings, the existence or absence of serious adverse events (death or hospitalizations because of cardiac causes) were determined as an all-or-none phenomenon. Stepwise logistic regression analysis was performed to estimate associations among illness course and Expressed Emotion subscales, STAI X1-X2, BDI scores and clinical variables.
Results: High family Emotional Overinvolvement (EOI) scores were associated with higher study entry levels of depression (P = 0.003) among the patients and high Warmth was related to higher score on state anxiety scale (P = 0.000). Poor illness course at T1 was associated with high EOI [P = 0.005, exp(B) = 0.502, 95% confidence interval 0.308-0.818].
Conclusion: The association among wives' emotional profile, patients' psychological variables and illness course suggested the importance of a family assessment and of interventions directed towards changing emotional behaviours which could threaten the patient's psychological adjustment and the clinical course following a heart attack.