Background: Women with angina pectoris, a positive exercise electrocardiogram (ECG) for myocardial ischemia and angiographically smooth coronary arteries (cardiac syndrome X), are often characterized by unresolved symptomatology and a poor quality of life. Psychological morbidity and quality of life appear to be related to social support and social isolation. An investigation of group support as an aid to treatment for cardiac syndrome X was therefore undertaken.
Methods: Forty-nine women with cardiac syndrome X (mean ± standard deviation 61.8 ± 8 years) were randomized to 12 monthly support group meetings or usual care control. The Health Anxiety Questionnaire (HAQ), Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS), SF-36, York Angina Beliefs scale, ENRICHD Social Support Instrument (ESSI) and a demographic information scale, along with hospital admissions, general practitioner (GP) or cardiologist appointments were measured at baseline, 6 months and 12 months.
Results: Support group participants maintained higher levels of social support than controls (ESSI score, 17.18 ± 5.35 vs. 14.45 ± 6.98, p = 0.008). Near significant improvements in health beliefs total score (p = 0.068) and threat perception (p = 0.062) were found among the support group compared to the control; 29% of support patients had made one or more GP visits over the duration of the study, compared with 54% of the control group (p = 0.06).
Conclusion: Support group participation maintains social support and may reduce health-care demands and misconceived health beliefs among patients with cardiac syndrome X.