Aims: The role of type A behaviour in cardiovascular disease is controversial and most of the research is based on self-rating scales. The aim of this study was to assess the prevalence of type A behaviour in cardiology and in other medical settings using reliable interview methods that reflect its original description.
Methods: A sample of 1398 consecutive medical patients (198 with heart transplantation, 153 with a myocardial infarction, 190 with functional gastrointestinal disorders, 104 with cancer, 545 with skin disorders and 208 referred for psychiatric consultation) was administered the Structured Clinical Interview for the DSM-IV and the Structured Interview for the Diagnostic Criteria for Psychosomatic Research (DCPR) which identifies 12 clusters, including type A behaviour.
Results: A cardiac condition was present in 366 patients. There was a significant difference in the prevalence of type A behaviour in cardiovascular disease (36.1%) compared with other medical disorders (10.8%). Type A behaviour frequently occurred together with psychiatric and psychosomatic disturbances, particularly irritable mood, even though in the majority of cases it was not associated with DSM-IV diagnoses. Among cardiac patients, those with type A behaviour were less depressed, demoralised and worried about their illness.
Conclusions: Type A behaviour was found to occur in about a third of cases of patients with cardiovascular disease. Only in a limited number of cases was it associated with depression. It has a lifestyle connotation that may have important clinical consequences as to stress vulnerability and illness behaviour.