Objective: The aim of the study was to examine how psychological stress changes over time in young and middle-aged patients after experiencing an acute myocardial infarction (AMI) and whether these changes differ between men and women.
Methods: We analyzed data obtained from 2358 women and 1151 men aged 18 to 55 years hospitalized for AMI. Psychological stress was measured using the 14-item Perceived Stress Scale (PSS-14) at initial hospitalization and at 1 month and 12 months after AMI. We used linear mixed-effects models to examine changes in PSS-14 scores over time and sex differences in these changes, while adjusting for patient characteristics and accounting for correlation among repeated observations within patients.
Results: Overall, patients' perceived stress decreased over time, especially during the first month after AMI. Women had higher levels of perceived stress than men throughout the 12-month period (difference in PSS-14 score = 3.63, 95% confidence interval = 3.08 to 4.18, p < .001), but they did not differ in how stress changed over time. Adjustment for patient characteristics did not alter the overall pattern of sex difference in changes of perceived stress over time other than attenuating the magnitude of sex difference in PSS-14 score (difference between women and men = 1.74, 95% confidence interval = 1.32 to 2.16, p < .001). The magnitude of sex differences in perceived stress was similar in patients with versus without post-AMI angina, even though patients with angina experienced less improvement in PSS-14 score than those without angina.
Conclusions: In young and middle-aged patients with AMI, women reported higher levels of perceived stress than men throughout the first 12 months of recovery. However, women and men had a similar pattern in how perceived stress changed over time.