Keeping our close emotional relationships harmonious and healthy may reduce the risk of heart disease. In a very large study of 9,011 British civil servants, investigators found that people whose intimate relationships were hostile and angry had a 34% higher chance of heart attack or chest pain than people in good relationships. Study findings were published in the October 8, 2007, issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine (2007; 167 , 1951–57).
The aim of the study was to evaluate the impact of social relationships on health. Subjects completed questionnaires between 1985 and 1988 or between 1989 and 1990. Scientists followed the subjects for an average of 12.2 years. Even when factors such as obesity, smoking, drinking and family history were eliminated, those in negative relationships still had a 25% higher chance of heart attack. The gender, marital status or social position of people in negative relationships did not increase or decrease the harmful effect.
Limitations of the study included the fact that data was obtained by self-reporting and that the research looked only at the primary intimate relationship and did not take into account larger social circles, such as relationships in the workplace or with other community members. In addition, British civil servants as a sample group may not reflect society at large.