According to lead author Christine M. Albert, M.D., M.P.H., an epidemiologist at BWH and an electrophysiologist and cardiologist at MGH, “Phobic anxiety is associated with coronary heart disease risk factors. However, in this study, in which these risk factors were controlled, we found a correlation between higher levels of phobic anxiety and death from CHD, particularly from sudden cardiac death, despite these risk factors. In the past, there have been several studies that suggested that psychosocial factors, such as emotions, anxiety and anger have been associated with an elevated risk of heart disease; particularly, death from heart disease. This study furthers this knowledge and indicates that phobic anxiety may increase risk of coronary heart disease and sudden cardiac death in women.”

Researchers reviewed data from women age 30 to 55 who participated in the Nurses’ Health Study by evaluating their phobic anxiety levels and then monitoring cardiovascular events later on. They found that women with higher levels of phobic anxiety were more likely to die suddenly from coronary heart disease than those in the lowest quarter of the population. These risks were lower after controlling other cardiac risk factors linked to phobic anxiety, but a trend toward an increased risk for sudden cardiac death persisted.