Control Beliefs and Risk for Death, Stroke and Myocardial Infarction in Middle-aged and Older Adults: An Observational Study

J Gen Intern Med. 2015 Aug;30(8):1156-63. doi: 10.1007/s11606-015-3275-9. Epub 2015 Mar 20.


Background: Chronic health conditions account for the largest proportion of illness-related mortality and morbidity as well as most of healthcare spending in the USA. Control beliefs may be important for outcomes in individuals with chronic illness.

Objective: To determine whether control beliefs are associated with the risk for death, incident stroke and incident myocardial infarction (MI), particularly for individuals with diabetes mellitus (DM) and/or hypertension.

Design: Retrospective cohort study.

Participants: A total of 5,662 respondents to the Health and Retirement Study with baseline health, demographic and psychological data in 2006, with no history of previous stroke or MI.

Main measures: Perceived global control, measured as two dimensions--"constraints" and "mastery"--and health-specific control were self-reported. Event-free survival was measured in years, where "event" was the composite of death, incident stroke and MI. Year of stroke or MI was self-reported; year of death was obtained from respondents' family.

Key results: Mean baseline age was 66.2 years; 994 (16.7%) had DM and 3,023 (53.4%) hypertension. Overall, 173 (3.1%) suffered incident strokes, 129 (2.3%) had incident MI, and 465 (8.2%) died. There were no significant interactions between control beliefs and baseline DM or hypertension in predicting event-free survival. Elevated adjusted hazard ratios (HRs) were associated with DM (1.33, 95 % CI 1.07-1.67), hypertension (1.31, 95% CI 1.07-1.61) and perceived constraints in the third (1.55, 95% CI 1.12-2.15) and fourth quartiles (1.61, 95% CI 1.14-2.26). Health-specific control scores in the third (HR 0.78, 95% CI 0.59-1.03) and fourth quartiles (HR 0.70, 95% CI 0.53-0.92) were protective, but only the latter category had a statistically significant decreased risk. Combined high perceived constraints and low health-specific control had the highest risk (HR 1.93, 95% CI 1.41-2.64).

Conclusions: Control beliefs were not associated with differential risk for those with DM and/or hypertension, but they predicted significant differences in event-free survival for the general cohort.

Publication types

  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Diabetes Mellitus / prevention & control*
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / prevention & control*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Myocardial Infarction / mortality*
  • Patients / psychology*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Stroke / mortality*
  • Treatment Outcome