Gender Differences in Biobehavioral Aftereffects of Stress on Eating, Frustration, and Cardiovascular Responses1


  • 1

    This research was supported by Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences research awards (#R072AR to the fourth author, and #TO72BD-01 to the first author). Grants from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (# DA15114-0 to the first author) and Office of Naval Research (#N000140110547 to the first and third authors) supported preparation of this manuscript. The views contained herein are the private ones of the authors and do not reflect those of The Pennsylvania State University, the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USUHS), or the Department of Defense. Procedures followed in this research were reviewed and approved by the USUHS Human Subjects Committee. Portions of this work were presented at the 17th annual meeting of the Society of Behavioral Medicine in Washington, DC, March 1996. The authors thank Jerome E. Singer and the late Sandy Jochum for their contributions to this experiment. We thank Richard W. Cousino, Jeff L. Klein, and Casey Skvorc for their valuable technical assistance; Doug A. Granger and Elizabeth Shirtcliff for their editorial comments; and the efforts of Michelle Barnhart, Rachel Ceballos, and Michele Stine who scored the cognitive performance data.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Laura Cousino Klein, Department of Biobehavioral Health, The Pennsylvania State University, 315 East Health and Human Development, University Park, PA 16802-6509. E-mail: LXK18@psu.ed.


Eating, persistence, and cardiovascular responses were evaluated after exposure to a 25-min noise stressor with or without perceived control. Participants were healthy men (n = 29) and women (n = 34), aged 21 to 45 years. There were no group differences in cognitive task performance or blood pressure during the stressor. However, perceived control resulted in lower mean blood pressure and heart rate after cessation of the stressor for men and women. Women without perceived control displayed greater frustration levels following the stressor, and frustrated women ate more bland food than did nonfrustrated women. Perceived control and frustration did not affect food consumption among men following the stressor. These findings indicate that there are health-relevant gender differences in biobehavioral responses that occur in the aftermath of stressor exposure. In addition, perceived control was especially important for women to attenuate the behavioral and biological effects of stressor exposure.