Social Support, Social Intimacy, and Cardiovascular Reactions to Acute Psychological Stress



Phillips AC, Gallagher S & Carroll D (2009) Social Support, Social Intimacy, and Cardiovascular Reactions to Acute Psychological Stress. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 37 (1), pp. 38-45.

Background Exaggerated cardiovascular reactions to psychological stress are considered a risk factor for cardiovascular morbidity. Social support may reduce such risk by attenuating cardiovascular reactivity to stress. Purpose To examine the effects of three independent social support variables and their interaction on cardiovascular reactivity to acute stress. The variables were stranger or friend presence, active supportive or passive presence, and male or female presence. Methods Cardiovascular reactions to mental arithmetic stress were measured in 112 healthy young women tested in one of eight distinct independent conditions: active supportive male friend; active supportive female friend; passive male friend; passive female friend; active supportive male stranger; active supportive female stranger, passive male stranger; and passive female stranger. Results Support from a friend rather than a stranger was associated with attenuated blood pressure reactivity, but only when the supporter was a male friend. Support from a male stranger or female friend was associated with augmented blood pressure reactivity. Conclusions This interaction between the intimacy and sex of the supporter on cardiovascular reactivity extends the findings of previous laboratory studies of social support and can, to an extent, be interpreted in terms of the Social Comparison Theory.

Acute psychological stress; Cardiovascular reactivity; Social support

Annals of Behavioral Medicine: Volume 37, Issue 1

FundersUniversity of Birmingham
Publication date28/02/2009
Publication date online27/01/2009
PublisherOxford University Press (OUP)

People (1)


Professor Anna Whittaker

Professor Anna Whittaker

Professor of Behavioural Medicine, Sport