Research: Antisocial people have higher stroke risk

Disagreeableness or antagonism as a personality trait certainly seems to part of most bullies’ personalities. New research (published August 16, 2010 in Hypertension) links the trait with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) for both genders, but more pronounced in women. Antagonistic people have a higher risk of stroke. The finding strengthens the case that evidence exists that psychosocial factors impact health as much as physical factors do.

Researchers from the National Institute on Aging (lead researcher Angelina Sutin, PhD) studied 5,614 residents of Sardinia, Italy. The measure of personalty traits was a modified version of the NEO, a popular five-factor personality assessment questionnaire. One dimension, Agreeableness, tapped a person’s courteousness toward others, desire to compete rather than cooperate, cold and calculating nature, inconsiderateness, willingness to manipulate others and to tell them that they are not liked. Disagreeableness is defined as agreement with the negative actions, and researchers called it an antagonistic personality. Antagonists are primarily antisocial.

There is previous work linking personality (Type A pattern and hostility) to CVD when clinical symptoms are already present (e.g., hypertension, heart attack, stroke).

This study’s major contribution was to use ultrasound technology (non-invasive ultrasonography) to measure arterial wall thickening, a sign of aging, that can predict future CVD. It is called intima-mediat thickness, IMT. IMT is what is called a surrogate marker for, predictor of, stroke and acute myocardial infarction (heart attack). In the study, participants’ IMTs of the carotid artery (which supplies most of the blood to the brain) were measured.

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