Gratitude, social support and cardiovascular reactivity to acute psychological stress



Gallagher S, Creaven A, Howard S, Ginty AT & Whittaker AC (2021) Gratitude, social support and cardiovascular reactivity to acute psychological stress. Biological Psychology, 162, Art. No.: 108090.

The pathways linking gratitude to cardiovascular reactivity (CVR) to acute stress are not fully understood. We examine whether this association is mediated by social support. Healthy adults (N = 178) completed measures of trait gratitude and perceived social support and participated in a standardised mental arithmetic and speech stress testing protocol. Their CVR (i.e., systolic and diastolic blood pressure [SBP, DBP], heart rate [HR], cardiac output [CO] and total peripheral resistance [TPR]) were monitored throughout. Gratitude was positively associated with SBP, DBP and TPR reactivity, with those reporting higher gratitude showing higher CVR. Social support was positively associated with TPR to the maths task. The association between gratitude and TPR was mediated by social support but this was only evident in response to the maths task and not the speech task. These novel findings suggest that CVR may be a potential mechanism underlying the gratitude-physical health link.

Blood pressure; Cardiovascular reactivity; Gratitude; Social support; Stress

Biological Psychology: Volume 162

Publication date31/05/2021
Publication date online08/04/2021
Date accepted by journal02/04/2021

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Professor Anna Whittaker
Professor Anna Whittaker

Professor of Behavioural Medicine, Sport