Greater ability to express positive emotion is associated with lower projected cardiovascular disease risk
Positive emotion is associated with lower cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk, yet some mechanisms remain unclear. One potential pathway is via emotional competencies/skills. The present study tests whether the ability to facially express positive emotion is associated with CVD risk scores, while controlling for potential confounds and testing for sex moderation. Eighty-two men and women underwent blood draws before completing self-report assessments and a performance test of expressive skill. Positive expressions were scored for degree of ‘happiness’ using expression coding software. CVD risk scores were calculated using established algorithms based on biological, demographic, and behavioral risk factors. Linear regressions revealed a main effect for skill, with skill in expressing positive emotion associated with lower CVD risk scores. Analyses also revealed a sex-by-skill interaction whereby links between expressive skill and CVD risk scores were stronger among men. Objective tests of expressive skill have methodological advantages, appear to have links to physical health, and offer a novel avenue for research and intervention.