Research and theory link an interpersonal conflict model to cardiovascular disease. Specifically, persons scoring high on cynical hostility and social defensiveness are thought to manifest a defensive need for approval while harboring basic distrust and hostility toward those who could provide such approval. The objective of this study was to assess whether angiographically determined coronary artery disease (CAD) was associated with this combination of high cynical hostility and high social defensiveness.
Fifty-nine male patients of a Veterans Administration Medical Center (86% white, mean age = 59.9 years) participated in the study on the day before their angiographic procedure; these men filled out the Cook-Medley Hostility Scale and the Marlowe-Crowne Social Desirability Scale (social defensiveness). They subsequently were categorized as having defensive hostility (DH), high hostility (HH), high social defensiveness (SD), or low psychosocial risk (LRisk; low on both scales).
The four groups did not differ significantly on risk factor status or health status. As predicted, a preplanned contrast showed that the DH group’s mean number of arteries with at least 50% blockage (mean = 2.5) differed significantly from the combined means of the other groups. The HH and SD groups did not differ from the LRisk group.
When combined with other reports, the approach-avoidance interpersonal conflict model holds the promise of providing additional information about the psychosocial factors contributing to CAD development among men with high cynical hostility.