Hostile attitudes predict elevated vascular resistance during interpersonal stress in men and women

Mary Davis, Karen A. Matthews, Claire E. Mcgrath

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

71 Scopus citations


Objective: Existing research indicates that hostility is associated with enhanced blood pressure responses during social stress, but little is known about the hemodynamic patterns underlying these blood pressure increases, particularly in women. The present study examined hemodynamic responses to a low-anger interpersonal stressor, testing the hypotheses that hostile individuals show enhanced vascular responses and that low hostile individuals show enhanced myocardial responses. Methods: Eighty undergraduate men and women were categorized as high or low in hostility on the basis of median splits of Cook-Medley Hostility Scale scores. Participants discussed a controversial topic with a confederate who disagreed with them, and hemodynamic responses were assessed with impedance cardiography. Results: High hostile individuals exhibited greater increases in diastolic blood pressure and total peripheral resistance and smaller increases in cardiac output during an interpersonal stressor than did low hostile individuals. Systolic blood pressure and heart rate increases were greater among high hostile relative to low hostile females and comparable among low and high hostile males. Affective responses and task perceptions were generally similar for high and low hostile participants, but the relationship between task perception and hemodynamic responses varied on the basis of hostility level. Conclusions: These findings suggest that hostility in both men and women is associated with heightened vascular and dampened cardiac responsivity to interpersonal stress that is not deliberately anger provoking. Moreover, they indicate that the associations between task perception and hemodynamic responses vary between high and low hostile individuals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)17-25
Number of pages9
JournalPsychosomatic Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2000


  • Cardiovascular reactivity
  • Hostility
  • Interpersonal stress
  • Sex

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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