Young and middle-aged women experience more stress than their male counterparts which could contribute to worse recovery from heart attack, shows a new study.

The difference in the level of stress may be an important reason for sex-based differences in recovery.

"Women tend to report greater stress and more stressful life events than men, potentially because of their different roles in family life and work, as compared to men," said first author Xiao Xu, assistant professor from Yale University.

The authors measured each patient’s self-perceived psychological stress during the initial hospital stay.

They used data from the "Variation in Recovery: Role of Gender Outcomes on Young AMI (acute myocardial infarction) Patients" (VIRGO) study.

VIRGO studied patients aged 18 to 55 from 103 hospitals in the US, 24 in Spain and three in Australia from 2008 to 2012.

Participants were asked about the degree to which their life situations during the last month were unpredictable, uncontrollable and overloaded.

Women were also more likely to have children or grandchildren living in their household while experiencing greater financial strain.

"This study is distinctive in focusing particularly on young women and going beyond traditional predictors of risk to reveal how the context of these people’s lives influences their prognosis," said Harlan Krumholz, principal investigator of the VIRGO study.

"Helping patients develop positive attitudes and coping skills for stressful situations may not only improve their psychological well-being, but also help recovery after AMI," Xu said.

The findings appeared in the journal Circulation.