Self-reported health and cardiovascular reactions to psychological stress in a large community sample: Cross-sectional and prospective associations


  • The West of Scotland Twenty-07 Study is funded by the UK Medical Research Council and the data were originally collected by the MRC Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, funded by award U.1300.00.006. We are grateful to all of the participants in the Study, and to the survey staff and research nurses who carried it out. The data are employed here with the permission of the Twenty-07 Steering Group (Project No. EC0503). Geoff Der is also funded by the MRC.

Address reprint requests to: Anna C. Phillips, PhD, School of Sport and Exercise Sciences, University of Birmingham, Birmingham B15 2TT, England. E-mail:


Exaggerated cardiovascular reactions to acute psychological stress have been implicated in a number of adverse health outcomes. This study examined, in a large community sample, the cross-sectional and prospective associations between reactivity and self-reported health. Blood pressure and heart rate were measured at rest and in response to an arithmetic stress task. Self-reported health was assessed concurrently and 5 years later. In cross-sectional analyses, those with excellent/good self-reported health exhibited larger cardiovascular reactions than those with fair/poor subjective health. In prospective analyses, participants who had larger cardiovascular reactions to stress were more likely to report excellent/good health 5 years later, taking into account their reported health status at the earlier assessment. The findings suggest that greater cardiovascular reactivity may not always be associated with negative health outcomes.