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Objectives

This study examines the hypothesis that a past history of heart interventions will moderate the relationship between psychosocial factors (stressful life events, social support, perceived stress, having a current partner, having a past diagnosis of depression or anxiety over the past 3 years, time pressure, education level, and the mental health index) and the presence of chest pain in a sample of older women.

Design

Longitudinal survey over a 3-year period.

Methods

The sample was taken from a prospective cohort study of 10,432 women initially aged between 70 and 75 years, who were surveyed in 1996 and then again in 1999. Two groups of women were identified: those reporting to have heart disease but no past history of heart interventions (i.e., coronary artery bypass graft/angioplasty) and those reporting to have heart disease with a past history of heart interventions.

Results

Binary logistic regression analysis was used to show that for the women with self-reported coronary heart disease but without a past history of heart intervention, feelings of time pressure as well as the number of stressful life events experienced in the 12 months prior to 1996 were independent risk factors for the presence of chest pain, even after accounting for a range of traditional risk factors. In comparison, for the women with self-reported coronary heart disease who did report a past history of heart interventions, a diagnosis of depression in the previous 3 years was the significant independent risk factor for chest pain even after accounting for traditional risk factors.

Conclusion

The results indicate that it is important to consider a history of heart interventions as a moderator of the associations between psychosocial variables and the frequency of chest pain in older women.

Statement of contribution

What is already known on this subject? Psychological factors have been shown to be independent predictors of a range of health outcomes in individuals with coronary heart disease, including the presence of chest pain. Most research has been conducted with men or with small samples of women; however, the evidence does suggest that these relationships exist in women as well as in men.

What does this study add? Most studies have looked at overall relationships between psychological variables and health outcomes. The few studies that have looked at moderators have mainly examined gender as a moderator. To our knowledge, this is the first published study to examine a history of heart interventions as a moderator of the relationship between psychological variables and the presence of chest pain.