Anxiety sensitivity and medication nonadherence in patients with uncontrolled hypertension

Alcantara, Carmela; Edmondson, Donald E.; Moise, Nathalie; Oyola, Desiree A.; Hiti, David T.; Kronish, Ian M.


Anxiety sensitivity—fear of the negative social, physical, or cognitive consequences of anxiety related sensations—has been linked to cardiovascular disease and adverse cardiovascular health behaviors. Medication nonadherence may account for this association. We examined whether anxiety sensitivity was independently associated with objectively measured medication nonadherence in a multi-ethnic primary care sample.


Eighty-eight patients with uncontrolled hypertension completed the Anxiety Sensitivity Index and had their adherence to blood pressure (BP) medications measured during the interval between two primary care visits using an electronic pillbox (MedSignals®). Multivariable Poisson regressions were conducted to determine the relative risks of medication nonadherence associated with anxiety sensitivity after adjustment for age, gender, Hispanic/Latino ethnicity, education, total number of prescribed medications, and depressive and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms.


Nearly twice as many patients with high anxiety sensitivity were nonadherent to BP medications compared to patients with low anxiety sensitivity (65.0% vs. 36.8%; p = 0.03). Patients with high anxiety sensitivity had higher relative risks of medication nonadherence than their low anxiety sensitivity counterparts (adjusted relative risk [RR] = 1.76; 95% CI: 1.03–3.03).


In this first study of the association between anxiety sensitivity and medication adherence, we found that high anxiety sensitivity was strongly associated with BP medication nonadherence, even after adjustment for known confounders. Our results suggest that teaching patients who have uncontrolled hypertension adaptive strategies to manage their anxiety sensitivity may help improve their medication adherence, and thereby lower their cardiovascular risk.


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Also Published In

Journal of Psychosomatic Research

More About This Work

Academic Units
Social Work
Center for Behavioral Cardiovascular Health
Published Here
March 28, 2016