Women with mild heart blockage have poorer health and more anxiety and negative outlooks than men with the same condition, according to new research.

In non-obstructive coronary artery disease, the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the heart is partially restricted. The blockage of coronary arteries is associated with an increased risk of heart attack and other major heart problems, as well as death from any cause.

A person’s perceived health status, psychological distress and personality can affect outcomes, thus making psychosocial factors proxy risk factors for future cardiovascular events, said Paula M.C. Mommersteeg, Ph.D., assistant professor of medical and clinical psychology at Tilburg University in The Netherlands.

In the study — the first to investigate gender disparity — researchers explored the association between non-obstructive coronary artery disease and psychosocial distress in 523 people with the condition and 1,347 people without it. The participants completed questionnaires assessing their physical and mental health, psychological well-being and personality profile (degree of negative or positive outlook and level of social inhibition).

Among patients with non-obstructive coronary artery disease:

— The prevalence of poor health, anxiety and Type D personality (negative emotions combined with social inhibition) was significantly higher compared to those without the condition.

— More women reported physical impairment.

— More women reported psychosocial distress.

“We were very intrigued by these sex and gender differences — we had not thought they would be so apparent,” Mommersteeg said.

Statistical analysis revealed that the gaps could be due to several factors related to sex and gender, such as societal and cultural norms, age at diagnosis, education level, partner status, employment history and alcohol use.

The study is published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes.