Objective: To examine the associations between positive and negative affect and subsequent coronary heart disease events independently of established risk factors. Design: Prospective cohort study with follow-up over 12 years. Setting: 20 civil service departments originally located in London. Participants: 10 308 civil servants aged 35-55 years at entry into Whitehall II study in 1985. Main outcome measures: Fatal coronary heart disease, clinically verified incident non-fatal myocardial infarction, and definite angina (n=619, mean follow-up 12.5 years). Results: In Cox regression analysis adjusted for age, sex, ethnicity, and socioeconomic position, positive affect (hazard ratio=1.01, 95% confidence interval 0.82 to 1.24) and the balance between positive and negative affect, referred to as the affect balance score (hazard ratio=0.89, 0.73 to 1.09), were not associated with coronary heart disease. Further adjustment for behaviour related risk factors (smoking, alcohol consumption, daily fruit and vegetable intake, exercise, body mass index), biological risk factors (hypertension, blood cholesterol, diabetes), and psychological stress at work did not change these results. However, participants in the highest third of negative affect had an increased incidence of coronary events (hazard ratio=1.32, 1.09 to 1.60), and this association remained unchanged after adjustment for multiple confounders. Conclusions: Positive affect and affect balance did not seem to be predictive of future coronary heart disease in men and women who were free of diagnosed coronary heart disease at recruitment to the study. A weak positive association between negative affect and coronary heart disease was found and needs to be confirmed in further studies.
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