Aims: Positive affect is believed to predict cardiovascular health independent of negative affect. We examined whether higher levels of positive affect are associated with a lower risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) in a large prospective study with 10 years of follow-up.
Methods and results: We examined the association between positive affect and cardiovascular events in 1739 adults (862 men and 877 women) in the 1995 Nova Scotia Health Survey. Trained nurses conducted Type A Structured Interviews, and coders rated the degree of outwardly displayed positive affect on a five-point scale. To test that positive affect predicts incident CHD when controlling for depressive symptoms and other negative affects, we used as covariates: Center for Epidemiological Studies Depressive symptoms Scale, the Cook Medley Hostility scale, and the Spielberger Trait Anxiety Inventory. There were 145 (8.3%) acute non-fatal or fatal ischaemic heart disease events during the 14 916 person-years of observation. In a proportional hazards model controlling for age, sex, and cardiovascular risk factors, positive affect predicted CHD (adjusted HR, 0.78; 95% CI 0.63-0.96 per point; P = 0.02), the covariate depressive symptoms continued to predict CHD as had been published previously in the same patients (HR, 1.04; 95% CI 1.01-1.07 per point; P = 0.004) and hostility and anxiety did not (both P > 0.05).
Conclusion: In this large, population-based study, increased positive affect was protective against 10-year incident CHD, suggesting that preventive strategies may be enhanced not only by reducing depressive symptoms but also by increasing positive affect.