Life events and acute cardiovascular reactions to mental stress: A cohort study

Anna Phillips, Douglas Carroll, Christopher Ring, H Sweeting, P West

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

41 Citations (Scopus)
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OBJECTIVE: This study addressed the issue of whether frequent exposure to life events is associated with aggravation or blunting of cardiovascular reactions to acute mental stress. METHODS: In a substantial cohort of 585 healthy young adults, systolic and diastolic blood pressure and pulse rate were recorded at rest and in response to a mental arithmetic stress task. Participants indicated, from a list of 50 events, those they had experienced in the last year. RESULTS: There was an overall association between life events and blunted cardiovascular reactivity that was driven by variations in the frequency of exposure to desirable events. The total number of events and the number of personal events were negatively associated with systolic blood pressure and pulse rate reactions to acute stress, whereas the number of work-related events was negatively associated with diastolic blood pressure and pulse rate reactivity. The negative association between total events and systolic blood pressure reactivity was stronger for women than men, whereas men exposed to frequent undesirable events showed enhanced diastolic blood pressure reactivity. The blunting of pulse rate reactivity associated with frequent personal life events was evident particularly for those who had a relatively large number of close friends. CONCLUSION: The nature and extent of the association between life events exposure and stress reactivity in young adults depends on the valence of the events together with the sex of the individual and their social network size.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)384-392
Number of pages9
JournalPsychosomatic Medicine
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2005


  • sex
  • cardiovascular reactivity
  • social support
  • life events
  • acute stress


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