Physiological stress responses in defensive individuals: Age and sex matter

Authors

  • Karine Lévesque,

    1. Research Center, Montreal Heart Institute, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
    2. Department of Psychology, Université du Québec à Montréal, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
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  • D. S. Moskowitz,

    1. Department of Psychology, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
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  • Jean-Claude Tardif,

    1. Research Center, Montreal Heart Institute, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
    2. Department of Medicine, Montreal Heart Institute and Université de Montréal, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
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  • Gilles Dupuis,

    1. Research Center, Montreal Heart Institute, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
    2. Department of Psychology, Université du Québec à Montréal, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
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  • Bianca D'antono

    1. Research Center, Montreal Heart Institute, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
    2. Department of Psychology, Université du Québec à Montréal, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
    3. Department of Psychiatry, Université de Montréal, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
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This study was supported by grants awarded to Dr. D'Antono by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Fonds de la recherche en santé du Québec. Address reprint requests to: Bianca D'Antono, Research Center, Montreal Heart Institute, 5000 Belanger Street, Montreal, Quebec, H1T 1C8, Canada. E-mail: bianca.d.antono@umontreal.ca

Abstract

The association between defensiveness and physiological responses to stress were evaluated in 81 healthy working men and 118 women, aged 20 to 64 years (M=41; SD=11.45). Participants underwent laboratory testing during which they were exposed to interpersonal stressors. Heart rate (HR), heart rate variability (HRV), blood pressure (BP), and salivary cortisol were measured. Defensiveness was evaluated using the Marlowe-Crowne Social Desirability Scale. In women, higher defensiveness was associated with greater BP and HR reactivity to stress (p<.05). In older men, lower defensiveness was associated with increased systolic BP reactivity to stress (p<.02), delayed HRV recovery (p<.02), and greater salivary cortisol levels (p<.02). In conclusion, greater defensiveness was associated with increased reactivity to stress in women whereas in older men, lower defensiveness was associated with elevated cardiovascular, autonomic, and endocrine responses to stress.

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