Psychology of earthquake-induced stress cardiomyopathy, myocardial infarction and non-cardiac chest pain

Internal Medicine Journal, 04/25/2012

Zarifeh JA et al. – The hypothesis was incorrect. Women with non–cardiac chest pain following an earthquake have higher anxiety and neuroticism scores than women with either myocardial infarction (MI) or stress cardiomyopathy. Stress cardiomyopathy following an earthquake is not specific to psychologically vulnerable women. The psychology of natural disaster–induced stress cardiomyopathy may differ from that of sporadic cases.


  • Cardiology admitting staff in the week following the September 2010 Christchurch earthquake prospectively identified patients with earthquake–precipitated chest pain.
  • Males were excluded.
  • All consenting women met diagnostic criteria for one of the three conditions.
  • Patients underwent a semistructured interview with a senior clinical psychologist who was blind to the cardiac diagnosis.
  • Premorbid psychological factors, experience of the earthquake and psychological response were assessed using a range of validated tools.


  • Seventeen women were included in the study, six with stress cardiomyopathy, five with MI and six with non–cardiac chest pain.
  • Earthquake experiences were notably similar across the groups.
  • Patients with non–cardiac chest pain scored high on the hospital anxiety and depression scale, the health anxiety questionnaire, the Eysenck neuroticism scale and the Impact of Event scale.
  • Women with stress cardiomyopathy scored as the most psychologically robust.
  • Depression and extroversion scores were the same across groups.

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