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Social support and individual variability in patterns of haemodynamic reactivity and recovery

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Although it is generally accepted that laboratory manipulations of social support can moderate cardiovascular reactivity to psychosocial stress, the findings are highly variable and the mechanisms of influence remain to be fully elucidated. We used thoracic impedance cardiography to assess patterns of parasympathetic activation and examine whether social support buffers stress reactivity and/or prevents prolonged activation following a stressor. Sixty-one female undergraduates completed an anger recall task with either a neutral or a supportive experimenter. Supported participants evidence increased cardiac output reactivity and delayed systolic blood pressure recovery compared to unsupported participants. However, perceived support from the experimenter was associated with reduced stroke volume reactivity. Highly cynically hostile participants evidenced delayed cardiovascular recovery compared to low cynicism participants. Counter-intuitive findings are explained in terms of individual variations in haemodynamic patterns of response. Perceived support may be determined by individual differences or response bias, rather than by support manipulation.
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Keywords: Social support; cardiovascular reactivity; cardiovascular recovery; hostility; impedance cardiography; psychosocial stress

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: School of Psychology, The University of Birmingham, Birmingham, B15 2TT 2: Faculty of Health and Sciences, Staffordshire University, Stoke-on-Trent, ST4 2DE, UK

Publication date: May 1, 2007

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