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Cardiovascular reactions to psychological stress: the influence of demographic variables
  1. Douglas Carrolla,
  2. Lesley K Harrisona,
  3. Derek W Johnstonb,
  4. Graeme Fordc,
  5. Kate Huntc,
  6. Geoff Derc,
  7. Patrick Westc
  1. aSchool of Sport and Exercise Sciences, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, B15 2TT, bSchool of Psychology, University of St Andrews, St Andrews, cMRC Medical Sociology Unit, University of Glasgow, Glasgow
  1. Professor Carroll (carrolld{at}

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Large magnitude cardiovascular reactions to psychological stress have been implicated in the development and expression of cardiovascular disease.1 Given that cardiovascular disease varies as a function of demographic variables such as age, sex, and socioeconomic status (SES), it is surprising that there are few substantive data on the effects of such variables on the magnitude of cardiovascular reactions to stress. Although counter examples exist, small scale studies have reported greater heart rate reactions to stress in women, irrespective of stage of the menstrual cycle.2 Age has also been found to influence cardiovascular reactivity, with younger cohorts showing larger heart rate but lower systolic blood pressure reactions to stress.3 Finally, the one published study that has examined SES variations in reactivity found larger systolic blood pressure reactions to stress in higher occupational groups.4 Thus, the available data suggest that cardiovascular reactions to psychological stress are patterned by age, sex, and SES in a manner that is not wholly commensurate …

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  • Funding: the study on which this paper was based is funded by the UK Medical Research Council.

  • Conflicts of interest: none.