Anxiety is common in patients with coronary heart disease (CHD), but studies examining the effect of anxiety on cardiovascular prognosis and the role of potential mediators have yielded inconsistent results.
To evaluate the effect of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) on subsequent cardiovascular events and the extent to which this association is explained by cardiac disease severity and potential behavioral or biological mediators.
Prospective cohort study (Heart and Soul Study).
Participants were recruited between September 11, 2000, and December 20, 2002, from 12 outpatient clinics in the San Francisco Bay Area and were followed up until March 18, 2009.
One thousand fifteen outpatients with stable CHD followed up for a mean (SD) of 5.6 (1.8) years.
Main Outcome Measures
We determined the presence of GAD using the Diagnostic Interview Schedule. Proportional hazards models were used to evaluate the association of GAD with subsequent cardiovascular events and the extent to which this association was explained by potential confounders and mediators.
A total of 371 cardiovascular events occurred during 5711 person-years of follow-up. The age-adjusted annual rate of cardiovascular events was 9.6% in the 106 participants with GAD and 6.6% in the 909 participants without GAD (P = .03). After adjustment for demographic characteristics, comorbid conditions (including major depressive disorder), cardiac disease severity, and medication use, GAD remained associated with a 62% higher rate of cardiovascular events (hazard ratio, 1.62; 95% confidence interval, 1.11-2.37; P = .01). Additional adjustment for a variety of potential behavioral and biological mediators had little effect on this association (hazard ratio, 1.74; 95% confidence interval, 1.13-2.67; P = .01).
In outpatients with CHD, a robust association between GAD and cardiovascular events was found that could not be explained by disease severity, health behaviors, or biological mediators. How GAD leads to poor cardiovascular outcomes deserves further study.