The Association of Patient Educational Attainment With Cardiac Rehabilitation Adherence and Health Outcomes

Diann E. Gaalema, Patrick D. Savage, Steven O'Neill, Hypatia A. Bolívar, Deborah Denkmann, Jeffrey S. Priest, Sherrie Khadanga, Philip A. Ades

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Purpose: Participating in cardiac rehabilitation (CR) after a cardiac event provides many clinical benefits. Patients of lower socioeconomic status (SES) are less likely to attend CR. It is unclear whether they attain similar clinical benefits as patients with higher SES. This study examines how educational attainment (one measure of SES) predicts both adherence to and improvements during CR. Methods: This was a prospective observational study of 1407 patients enrolled between January 2016 and December 2019 in a CR program located in Burlington, VT. Years of education, smoking status (self-reported and objectively measured), depression symptom level (Patient Health Questionnaire), self-reported physical function (Medical Outcomes Survey), level of fitness (peak metabolic equivalent, peak oxygen uptake, and handgrip strength), and body composition (body mass index and waist circumference) were obtained at entry to, and for a subset (n = 917), at exit from CR. Associations of educational attainment with baseline characteristics were examined using Kruskal-Wallis or Pearson's χ2tests as appropriate. Associations of educational attainment with improvements during CR were examined using analysis of covariance or logistic regression as appropriate. Results: Educational attainment was significantly associated with most patient characteristics examined at intake and was a significant predictor of the number of CR sessions completed. Lower educational attainment was associated with less improvement in cardiorespiratory fitness, even when controlling for other variables. Conclusions: Patients with lower SES attend fewer sessions of CR than their higher SES counterparts and may not attain the same level of benefit from attending. Programs need to increase attendance within this population and consider program modifications that further support behavioral changes during CR.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)227-234
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation and Prevention
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • adherence
  • cardiac rehabilitation
  • educational attainment
  • risk factors
  • socioeconomic status

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rehabilitation
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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