Heart patients with hostile dispositions can become healthier by changing their attitude, according to a study published in Health Psychology by scientists from Ben-Gurion University, Israel, the University of Alabama and Dalhousie University, Halifax, N.S.
Heart patients who scored high on hostility tests were able to significantly lower their blood pressure by working on a change of attitude and, in a follow-up study six months later, reduce the need for hospitalization due to their heart condition. Since elevated blood pressure is a risk factor for heart disease, this finding could have significance for health providers, the researchers said.
Heart patients in the control group attended one class on hostility and its link with heart disease. They also attended eight weekly group therapy sessions, where they learned listening skills to help reduce antagonism, and techniques to avoid cynicism and anger. They were also asked to keep daily logs of hostile feelings and responses to them. These therapy techniques are a combination of existing methods widely used to help patients with depression and anxiety.
In a follow-up study yet to be published, researchers have found that the cost of therapy for such heart patients saves money in the long run: "The cost of giving heart patients therapy is cheaper than hospitalizing them," said researcher Karina W. Davidson, an assistant psychology professor at the University of Alabama.
In the follow-up study, Davidson said that heart patients who received the therapy sessions were hospitalized an average of less than a day over a six-month period, while those patients who did not undergo therapy were hospitalized an average of 2.5 days. "Our study concludes that therapy (for hostile heart patients) does save money. . . Our hope is that HMOs consider adopting this approach," she said.