Is alexithymia associated with metabolic syndrome? A study in a healthy adult population

Psychiatry Res. 2016 Feb 28;236:58-63. doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2015.12.034. Epub 2015 Dec 28.


Metabolic syndrome (MetS) is a constellation of risk factors for, in particular, cardiovascular diseases and increased mortality, and it constitutes a major clinical challenge affecting millions of lives. Alexithymia is a condition that has been linked with several mental diseases and symptoms, as well as somatic illnesses, including essential hypertension and diabetes mellitus. However, there is limited research on the association of alexithymia and MetS. The aim of the present study was to comprehensively explore this association in a large (n=1648) non-clinical sample of adults. Logistic regression analyses were applied to the five separate MetS components as well as the MetS diagnosis, and the analyses included a number of sociodemographic variables and depressive symptoms as covariates. The results confirmed the previous finding of alexithymic features being independently and significantly associated with hypertension. As a new finding, this association appears to be related to two particular dimensions of alexithymia, namely difficulty describing feelings and externally oriented thinking. Interestingly, alexithymic features were also separately significantly associated with waist circumference and triglycerides as well as the MetS diagnosis. Depressive symptoms did not have any significant effect on the relations of alexithymia and MetS.

Keywords: Depression; Emotion; Hypertension; Somatic illness.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affective Symptoms / complications*
  • Affective Symptoms / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Metabolic Syndrome / complications*
  • Metabolic Syndrome / psychology
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk Factors