Author(s): Brezinka V, Kittel F
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Abstract Although coronary heart disease is the leading cause of death in women in most industrialized countries, much less research has been carried out on this topic to date than in men. This article gives an overview of psychosocial factors of coronary heart disease in women, focussing on psychosocial risk factors for coronary heart disease in women such as socioeconomic status, employment status, chronic troubling emotions, social support and bereavement/widowhood. A second focus lies on psychosocial adjustment in women once coronary heart disease has become manifest, i.e. well-being, return to work, sexual activity and rehabilitation outcome after a myocardial infarction or coronary artery bypass grafting. Via a computerized literature research in Medline, Psychlit and Sociofile over the period 1980-1994 all studies on these topics were collected and reviewed. Comparatively more research has been undertaken on psychosocial risk factors for than on psychosocial adjustment to coronary heart disease in women. Low social class, low educational attainment, the double loads of work and family, chronic troubling emotions and lack of social support emerge as documented risk factors in women. Regarding psychosocial adjustment to coronary heart disease in women, there is a paucity of data, and studies including large samples of women and adjusting for gender are warranted. Psychosocial adjustment in women after a myocardial infarction seems to be worse than in men, whereas results on adjustment after coronary artery bypass grafting are inconclusive. Return to work rates after myocardial infarction or coronary artery bypass grafting are significantly lower in women than in men. Data on sexual activity of women after myocardial infarction or coronary artery bypass grafting are scarce, and there seems to be a complete lack of physician counseling on this topic. Studies on rehabilitation outcome report poorer programme uptake, poorer adherence and significantly higher drop-out rates for women than for men, yet those women who complete cardiac rehabilitation show the same or even greater functional improvements than men.
This article was published in Soc Sci Med
and referenced in Journal of Addiction Research & Therapy