Heart Health When Life is Satisfying: Evidence from the Whitehall II Cohort Study

Date Published: 
May 2011
Boehm JK, Peterson C, Kivimaki M, and Kubzansky LD

It seems like common sense that being depressed or anxious is not good for a person’s health. But does well-being offer protective effects on cardiovascular health?

This study used data from the Whitehall II cohort of British civil servants who rated their satisfaction (on a 7-point scale from very dissatisfied to very satisfied) with eight domains of their life: (1) Marital or love relationship; (2) leisure time activities; (3) standard of living; (4) job; (5) health; (6) family life; (7) sex life; and (8) feelings about self as a person. Psychological well-being was assessed by asking participants yes/no questions about whether emotional problems like depression or anxiety caused them to change work and other activities. Incidence of coronary heart disease (CHD)—angina, nonfatal myocardial infarction (MI) or death from CHD— was assessed at 5-year follow-up.

Four life domains—job, family life, sex life and self satisfaction—were independently associated with a 12 percent reduced risk of total CHD. Looking at the components of CHD, risk of angina was reduced among individuals with high and moderate satisfaction, compared with individuals with low satisfaction. No association was found between the various domains and nonfatal MI or fatal CHD.

Self Published: 
Health Assets: 
Domain Satisfaction, Life Satisfaction
Health Conditions: 
Angina, Coronary Heart Disease (Incident), Coronary Heart Disease (Mortality), Myocardial Infarction
Positive Health Type: 
RWJF Grant-Funded: