Studies have shown an association between intensive care unit environments and symptoms of psychological distress in family members of critically ill patients.


To investigate levels of cardiac anxiety in family members of intensive care unit patients.


From March 2012 to July 2013, on the third day after the patient’s admission, 223 family members of 147 patients completed the Cardiac Anxiety Questionnaire. A total score was calculated from 3 subscales: fear and worry about heart sensations, avoidance of activities reproducing cardiac symptoms, and heart-focused attention and monitoring of cardiac activity.


Among the family members, 142 were women (63.7%) and 81 (36.3%) were men, 150 (67.3%) were married, and 37 (16.6%) were unemployed. Their mean score for overall cardiac anxiety was 1.11 (SD, 0.64), significantly higher (P < .001) than for the general Greek population. Although all 3 subscales scores were significantly higher than for the general population, the highest score was recorded for the avoidance subscale (mean, 1.77; SD, 0.68). The relationship to the patient had a significant effect on heart-focused attention (F5 = 3.51; P = .03). The mean score for patients’ siblings (2.0; SD, 0.01) differed significantly (P = .02) from the mean for other family member groups. Older adults (P = .02) and married participants (P = .05) reported higher levels of fear and worry related to cardiac stimuli, and women further reported higher levels of cardioprotective avoidance behavior (P = .02).


A noticeable number of family members of critical care patients had moderate to severe cardiac anxiety during the hospitalization of their relatives.

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