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Alexithymia Is Associated With Increased Cardiovascular Mortality in Middle-Aged Finnish Men

Tolmunen, Tommi MD, PhD; Lehto, Soili M. MD, PhD; Heliste, Maria MB; Kurl, Sudhir MD, PhD; Kauhanen, Jussi MD, PhD

doi: 10.1097/PSY.0b013e3181c65d00
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Objective: To explore the associations between alexithymia and increased somatic morbidity. The mechanisms underlying these associations, however, are still unclear. Furthermore, data on the association between alexithymia and mortality are scarce.

Methods: A total of 2321 Finnish men, aged 46 to 61 years, were followed up for an average of 20 years. Mortality rates were obtained from the national register. The associations between baseline alexithymia and cardiovascular disease (CVD), all-cause, injury, and cancer deaths were examined with adjustments for age and several behavioral (smoking, alcohol consumption, physical activity), physiological (low- and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, body mass index, systolic blood pressure, history of CVD), and psychosocial (marital status, education, depression) factors.

Results: After all adjustments, the risk of CVD death was increased by 1.2% for each 1-point increase in Toronto Alexithymia Scale-26 scores.

Conclusions: Alexithymia is associated with increased cardiovascular mortality.

BDI = Beck Depression Inventory; BMI = body mass index; CI = confidence interval; CVD = cardiovascular disease; HDL-C = high-density lipoprotein cholesterol; HPL Depression Scale = Human Population Laboratory Depression Scale; LDL-C = low-density lipoprotein cholesterol; RR = risk ratio; TAS = Toronto Alexithymia Scale.

From the Department of Psychiatry (T.T., S.M.L.), Kuopio University Hospital; Kuopio Psychiatric Center (S.M.L.), Kuopio, Finland; Research Institute of Public Health (M.H., S.K., J.K.) and the Department of Public Health and General Practice (J.K.), University of Kuopio, Kuopio, Finland.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Tommi Tolmunen, Department of Psychiatry, Kuopio University Hospital, P.O. Box 1777, FIN-70211 Kuopio, Finland. E-mail: Tommi.Tolmunen@kuh.fi

Received for publication April 27, 2009; revision received September 21, 2009.

Copyright © 2010 by American Psychosomatic Society
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