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Psychology: For a healthier heart, turn into a shrinking violet

Submissive women who are content to take a back seat have fewer heart attacks than their more self-assured sisters who insist on playing a dominant role, researchers have found.

Scientists at Edinburgh University who gave personality tests to 1,600 men and women found that submissiveness had little effect on a man's risk of having a heart attack but reduced the risk among women by nearly a third.

Dr Martha Whiteman, who led the research, said: "The people who scored highly on the submissiveness scale are content to be that way. They have not been forced to submit to anyone - it is their nature to be meek."

The findings, published in the Lancet, support the results of previous studies linking personality and mortality risk. Some studies have shown that aggressive, highly competitive people - those with Type A personalities - face a greater heart attack threat than placid Type B individuals.