Aims Positive affect is believed to predict cardiovascular health independent of negative affect. We examined whether higher levels of positive affect are associated with a lower risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) in a large prospective study with 10 years of follow-up.
Methods and results We examined the association between positive affect and cardiovascular events in 1739 adults (862 men and 877 women) in the 1995 Nova Scotia Health Survey. Trained nurses conducted Type A Structured Interviews, and coders rated the degree of outwardly displayed positive affect on a five-point scale. To test that positive affect predicts incident CHD when controlling for depressive symptoms and other negative affects, we used as covariates: Center for Epidemiological Studies Depressive symptoms Scale, the Cook Medley Hostility scale, and the Spielberger Trait Anxiety Inventory. There were 145 (8.3%) acute non-fatal or fatal ischaemic heart disease events during the 14 916 person-years of observation. In a proportional hazards model controlling for age, sex, and cardiovascular risk factors, positive affect predicted CHD (adjusted HR, 0.78; 95% CI 0.63–0.96 per point; P = 0.02), the covariate depressive symptoms continued to predict CHD as had been published previously in the same patients (HR, 1.04; 95% CI 1.01–1.07 per point; P = 0.004) and hostility and anxiety did not (both P > 0.05).
Conclusion In this large, population-based study, increased positive affect was protective against 10-year incident CHD, suggesting that preventive strategies may be enhanced not only by reducing depressive symptoms but also by increasing positive affect.