Hopelessness and 4-year progression of carotid atherosclerosis. The Kuopio Ischemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study

Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol. 1997 Aug;17(8):1490-5. doi: 10.1161/01.atv.17.8.1490.


The importance of hope has long been recognized, whereas a lack of hope, or "giving up," is generally believed to have a negative impact on psychological well-being and physical health. Recently, hopelessness has been identified as a strong, independent predictor of cardiovascular disease morbidity and mortality in both American and Finnish populations. In this study we examined the association between high levels of hopelessness and progression of carotid atherosclerosis in participants (n = 942) in the Kuopio Ischemic Heart Disease Study, a population-based study of middle-aged men from eastern Finland who underwent carotid ultrasonography at baseline and 4 years later. Men reporting high levels of hopelessness at baseline had faster progression of carotid atherosclerosis, assessed by four measures of intima-media thickening (IMT), than men reporting low to moderate levels of hopelessness. Further analyses revealed significant interactions between hopelessness and initial level of atherosclerosis, such that the effects of high hopelessness on progression were greatest among men who had baseline mean IMT values at or above the median. Moreover, progression was greatest among men reporting high levels of hopelessness at both baseline and follow-up. Traditional coronary risk factors and use of cholesterol-lowering and antihypertensive medications did not account for much variance in the observed relationships. These findings indicate that hopelessness contributes to accelerated progression of carotid atherosclerosis, particularly among men with early evidence of atherosclerosis, and that chronically high levels of hopelessness may be especially detrimental. Additional research is needed to identify the contributory pathways and/or mechanisms underlying these relationships.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Arteriosclerosis / epidemiology*
  • Arteriosclerosis / psychology*
  • Carotid Artery Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Carotid Artery Diseases / psychology
  • Cohort Studies
  • Disease Progression
  • Finland / epidemiology
  • Helplessness, Learned*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Morale*
  • Myocardial Ischemia / epidemiology
  • Risk Factors
  • United States / epidemiology