France has a substantially lower level of premature mortality from cardiovascular diseases (CVD) relative to its comparators. Compared with Northern Ireland, France has one-half the rate, despite having a similar cardiovascular risk profile to Northern Ireland. In this prospective longitudinal study the psychosocial risk hypothesis for CVD was tested.
A cohort of 9758 men (7359 in France and 2399 in Northern Ireland) aged 50-59 years who were initially free of any CVD were recruited. At baseline the subjects completed a psychosocial questionnaire, measuring hostility, depression, social support, and the Type A behaviour pattern. At 5-years follow-up their clinical status was determined.
Multivariate analysis indicated that, contrary to prediction, France had a substantially more negative psychosocial risk profile than Northern Ireland. The psychosocial risk factors were not successful at predicting at 5-years follow-up the hard clinical endpoint of definite fatal/non-fatal myocardial infarction. In the case of the softer clinical endpoint, angina pectoris/unstable angina, only depression predicted outcome with a small effect size.
The findings provide little support for the psychosocial risk hypothesis. The psychosocial risk profile was more negative in France, the opposite of that predicted. The finding of a relationship between depression and angina may reflect a tendency for individuals who respond negatively on mood state to report more cardiac symptoms irrespective of physical disease state.