Publications by authors named "Siobhán Howard"

35 Publications

Individual differences in emotion regulation and cardiovascular responding to stress.

Emotion 2021 Nov 22. Epub 2021 Nov 22.

SASHLab.

Instructed use of reappraisal to regulate stress in the laboratory is typically associated with a more adaptive cardiovascular response to stress, indexed by either (a) lower cardiovascular reactivity (CVR; e.g., lower blood pressure) or (b) a challenge-oriented response profile (i.e., greater cardiac output paired with lower total peripheral resistance). In contrast, instructed use of suppression is associated with exaggerated CVR (e.g., greater heart rate, blood pressure). Despite this, few studies have examined if the use of these strategies are related to cardiovascular responding during stress. The current study examined the relationship between cardiovascular responses to acute stress and individual differences in emotion regulation style: trait reappraisal, suppression, and emotion regulation difficulties. Forty-eight participants (25 women, 23 men) completed a standardized laboratory stress paradigm incorporating a 20-minute acclimatization period, a 10-minute baseline, and two 5-minute speech tasks separated by a 10-minute intertask rest period. The emotional valence of the speech task was examined as a potential moderating factor; participants spoke about a block of negative-emotion words and a block of neutral-emotion words. Cardiovascular parameters were measured using the Finometer Pro. Greater habitual use of suppression was associated with exaggerated blood pressure responding to both tasks. However, only in response to the negative-emotion task was greater use of reappraisal associated with a challenge-oriented cardiovascular response. The findings suggest that individual differences in emotion regulation translate to differing patterns of CVR to stress, but the emotional valence of the stressor may play a role. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved).
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/emo0001037DOI Listing
November 2021

Early life adversity and blunted cardiovascular reactivity to acute psychological stress: The role of current depressive symptoms.

Psychosom Med 2021 Oct 12. Epub 2021 Oct 12.

Department of Psychology, Centre for Social Issues Research, Study of Anxiety, Stress and Health Laboratory, University of Limerick, Limerick, Ireland Health Research Institute, University of Limerick, Castletroy, Limerick, Ireland.

Objective: The pathways underlying the early life adversity and cardiovascular reactivity association remain unclear. The current study examined the role of current depressive symptoms on this relationship.

Methods: Mediation analyses were conducted using data from 639 participants drawn from the Midlife Development in the United States (MIDUS II) Biomarker Project. Responses were derived from the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire [CTQ] and Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale [CES-D]). Participants had their systolic and diastolic blood pressure (SBP, DBP) and heart rate (HR) monitored throughout a standardized stress testing protocol.

Results: The association between early life adversity and reactivity was mediated by current depressive symptoms; all adversity factors were linked to higher levels of current depressive symptoms, which in turn, were associated with lower cardiovascular reactivity. For emotional abuse, this was noted for SBP (β = -.06, 95% CI [-.13,-.01]; and DBP: β = - .04, [-.07,-.01]), physical abuse (SBP: β = -.05, [-.11,-.01]; DBP: β = -.03, [-.06,-.01]), sexual abuse (SBP: β = -.04, [-.09,-.01]; DBP: β = -.02, [-.05,-.01]), emotional neglect (SBP: β = -.04, [-.09,-.01]; DBP: β = -.02, [-.05,-.01]), physical neglect (SBP: β = -.09, [-.17,-.02]; DBP: β = -.05, [-.09,-.02]) and total CTQ (SBP: β = -.02, [-.03,-.00]; DBP: β = -.01, [-.02,-.00]).

Conclusions: The present findings extend research and demonstrate that depression is an underlying mechanism linking early life adversity and blunted cardiovascular reactivity.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1097/PSY.0000000000001024DOI Listing
October 2021

Gratitude, social support and cardiovascular reactivity to acute psychological stress.

Biol Psychol 2021 05 8;162:108090. Epub 2021 Apr 8.

Faculty of Health Sciences and Sport, University of Stirling, Stirling, Scotland, UK.

The pathways linking gratitude to cardiovascular reactivity (CVR) to acute stress are not fully understood. We examine whether this association is mediated by social support. Healthy adults (N = 178) completed measures of trait gratitude and perceived social support and participated in a standardised mental arithmetic and speech stress testing protocol. Their CVR (i.e., systolic and diastolic blood pressure [SBP, DBP], heart rate [HR], cardiac output [CO] and total peripheral resistance [TPR]) were monitored throughout. Gratitude was positively associated with SBP, DBP and TPR reactivity, with those reporting higher gratitude showing higher CVR. Social support was positively associated with TPR to the maths task. The association between gratitude and TPR was mediated by social support but this was only evident in response to the maths task and not the speech task. These novel findings suggest that CVR may be a potential mechanism underlying the gratitude-physical health link.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.biopsycho.2021.108090DOI Listing
May 2021

Instructed reappraisal and cardiovascular habituation to recurrent stress.

Psychophysiology 2021 05 3;58(5):e13783. Epub 2021 Feb 3.

SASHLab, Department of Psychology, University of Limerick, Limerick, Ireland.

Instructed reappraisal has previously been associated with a challenge-oriented cardiovascular response profile, indexed by greater cardiac output (CO) and lower total peripheral resistance (TPR), in response to a single stress exposure. The present study builds on this research by employing a stress habituation paradigm where participants completed a speech task twice; in which prior to the second task participants heard reappraisal instructions (i.e., view feelings of stress arousal as something that is beneficial) or control instructions. This paradigm allowed us to (a) test if reappraisal aids cardiovascular habituation to recurrent stress, and (b) examine if reappraisal leads to a within-participant change in CO/TPR responding from an uninstructed task to an instructed reappraisal task. Habitual use of reappraisal was assessed using the Emotion Regulation Questionnaire. The analyses report upon 173 young adults (121 women, 52 men). Cardiovascular parameters were measured continuously using the Finometer Pro. All participants demonstrated similar cardiovascular habituation during the second stress exposure (lower SBP, CO, and HR); suggesting that reappraisal did not aid cardiovascular habituation to recurrent stress. Reappraisal instructions did not lead to a challenge-oriented response compared to both the control group and responses to the uninstructed task. This study is the first to examine the relationship between instructed reappraisal and cardiovascular habituation and identifies that habitual use of reappraisal does not interact with reappraisal instructions to influence cardiovascular responses to stress.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/psyp.13783DOI Listing
May 2021

Motivational orientation mediates the association between depression and cardiovascular reactivity to acute psychological stress.

Psychophysiology 2021 02 30;58(2):e13732. Epub 2020 Nov 30.

Department of Psychology, Centre for Social Issues Research, Study of Anxiety, Stress and Health Laboratory, University of Limerick, Limerick, Ireland.

Recent theoretical developments in cardiovascular reactivity research suggest the association between depression and blunted reactions to stress is linked to motivational factors. Thus, the present study aimed to test whether the association between depressive symptoms and cardiovascular reactivity to acute stress was mediated by motivation; be it intrinsic or extrinsic motivation. One hundred and eighty-two healthy young adults completed measures of motivation (Global Motivation Scale; GMS), and depression (Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale; HADS) and had their blood pressure and heart rate monitored throughout a standardised stress testing protocol. Results indicated that depression was negatively associated with both systolic blood pressure (SBP) and heart rate (HR) reactions to the stress task (all ps < .05), such that those who reported higher depressive symptomology displayed a blunted response. Furthermore this relationship was mediated by intrinsic, but not extrinsic motivation; the blunted responses were less pronounced through intrinsic motivation. The present findings add extensively to existing research and confirm that motivation is an underlying mechanism linking depression and cardiovascular reactivity.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/psyp.13732DOI Listing
February 2021

Type D personality and cardiovascular reactivity to acute stress: The mediating effects of social support and negative social relationships.

Psychophysiology 2020 11 7;57(11):e13660. Epub 2020 Aug 7.

Department of Psychology, Centre for Social Issues Research, Study of Anxiety, Stress and Health Laboratory, University of Limerick, Limerick, Ireland.

Type D personality has been consistently associated with adverse cardiovascular health with atypical cardiovascular reactions to psychological stress one potential underlying mechanism. As Type D individuals have been noted to report lower social support and greater perceptions of negativity in social interactions, this study examined if the association between Type D personality and cardiovascular reactivity was mediated by these social relationships. A sample of 195 undergraduate students (138 female) participated in this observational study, where they completed measures assessing Type D personality (DS14), social support, and perceptions of negative social relationships (National Institute of Health social relationship scales), before undergoing a traditional cardiovascular reactivity protocol. Systolic and diastolic blood pressure (SBP; DBP), heart rate (HR), cardiac output (CO), and total peripheral resistance (TPR) were monitored throughout. ANCOVAs and regressions indicated that Type D personality was associated with lower cardiovascular reactivity to a mental arithmetic stressor. Furthermore, mediation analyses (process macro) indicated that the relationship between Type D personality and cardiovascular reactivity was mediated via increased perceptions of negative social relationships, as well as lower levels of social support. Apart from a significant association between Type D personality and increased HR reactivity, all results failed to withstand adjustment for the individual effects of negative affect (NA) and social inhibition (SI) in controlled analyses. Overall, these findings suggest that the predictive utility of Type D personality on cardiovascular reactivity above and beyond the individual effects of NA and SI is limited, and may vary depending on the cardiovascular parameter of focus.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/psyp.13660DOI Listing
November 2020

Type D personality and life event stress: the mediating effects of social support and negative social relationships.

Anxiety Stress Coping 2020 07 30;33(4):452-465. Epub 2020 Mar 30.

Department of Psychology, Centre for Social Issues Research, Study of Anxiety, Stress and Health Laboratory, University of Limerick, Limerick, Ireland.

Type D personality has been associated with increased perceptions of stress. As Type D individuals have been noted to report lower social support and greater perceptions of negativity in social interactions, this study examined if the association between Type D personality and life events stress was mediated by these social relationships. A cross-sectional design. Undergraduate students (= 197) completed questionnaires assessing Type D personality, social support, negative social relationships, and life events stress. Unadjusted analyses revealed that Type D individuals perceived their life events to be significantly more stressful than non-Type D individuals. Type D individuals also reported increased perceptions of negative social relationships and lower social support. Finally, the association between Type D personality and life events stress was mediated by perceptions of negative social relationships. However, when controlling for the main effects of negative affectivity and social inhibition, Type D was not significantly associated with social relationship or life events variables. Further, effects appeared to be primarily driven by negative affectivity. These results support recent findings in the Type D literature that have identified null effects of Type D when controlling for negative affectivity.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10615806.2020.1746284DOI Listing
July 2020

Establishing the validity of a novel passive stress task.

Psychophysiology 2020 08 28;57(8):e13555. Epub 2020 Feb 28.

SASHLab, Department of Psychology, University of Limerick, Limerick, Ireland.

Laboratory tasks used to elicit a cardiovascular stress response in the laboratory can involve either active or passive coping. However, in previous work, passive stress tasks often incorporate a distinct physical stress element, such as the handgrip or cold pressor task, meaning observed changes in cardiovascular parameters may be the result of the physical element of the stressor rather than truly reflecting psychological stress. The present study aimed to establish the validity of a psychological passive stressor; one more analogous to active tasks than those previously employed in laboratory studies. Twenty-six young, healthy adults completed a speech task in the laboratory following a resting baseline period. Twelve months later, they were invited back to the laboratory and watched the video recording of their speech. Analyses confirmed that while both tasks elicited significant SBP and DBP change (all ps < .001), only the active task was associated with HR and CO reactivity (both ps < .001), while only the passive task was associated with TPR reactivity (p = .028). Furthermore, the passive stressor was associated with a mixed hemodynamic profile, whereas the active stressor was associated with a clear myocardial profile. This study confirms that watching a video recording of oneself complete a speech task is associated with a more vascular response profile, a response associated with passive coping contexts.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/psyp.13555DOI Listing
August 2020

Personality, cardiovascular, and cortisol reactions to acute psychological stress in the Midlife in the United States (MIDUS) study.

Int J Psychophysiol 2020 02 19;148:67-74. Epub 2019 Dec 19.

Department of Psychology, University of Limerick, Castletroy, Limerick, Ireland; Health Research Institute, University of Limerick, Castletroy, Limerick, Ireland. Electronic address:

Recent research has suggested that diminished, as well as elevated reactivity to acute psychological stress is maladaptive. These differences in stress reactions have been hypothesized to relate to the Big Five personality traits, which are said to be biologically-based and stable across adulthood; however, findings have been inconclusive. This study sought to replicate the findings of the largest study conducted to date (Bibbey et al., 2013), with a sample of participants from the Midlife in the United States Study (MIDUS), aged between 35 and 84 years (M = 56.33, SD = 10.87). Participants (N = 817) undertook a standardized, laboratory-based procedure during which their cardiovascular and neuroendocrine reactivity to acute stress was measured. In contrast to Bibbey et al. (2013), associations between neuroticism and blunted reactivity did not withstand adjustment for confounding variables. Further, following adjustment for multiple tests, no significant positive association between agreeableness and HR reactivity was observed. Methodological differences between the studies, which may account in part for the contrasting findings, are discussed. Further conceptual replication research is needed to clarify associations between the Big Five personality traits and stress reactivity, across the lifespan.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ijpsycho.2019.11.014DOI Listing
February 2020

Social Context and Sex Moderate the Association Between Type D Personality and Cardiovascular Reactivity.

Appl Psychophysiol Biofeedback 2019 12;44(4):321-330

Department of Psychology, Centre for Social Issues Research, Study of Anxiety, Stress and Health Laboratory, University of Limerick, Limerick, Ireland.

Type D personality has been consistently associated with adverse cardiovascular health with atypical cardiovascular reactions to psychological stress one plausible underlying mechanism. However, whether this varies by sex and social context has received little attention. This study examined the interaction between Type D personality, sex and social context on cardiovascular reactivity to acute stress. A sample of 76 healthy undergraduate students (47 female) completed the DS14 Type D measure, before undergoing a traditional cardiovascular reactivity protocol. The social context of the laboratory environment was manipulated to create a social and non-social context using a between-subjects design. Systolic blood pressure (SBP), diastolic blood pressure (DBP) and heart rate (HR) were monitored throughout. No associations were evident for blood pressure. However, a significant personality × sex × social context interaction on HR reactivity was found; here Type D was associated with a higher HR response to the social task amongst males but not females, while Type D females typically exhibited blunted reactions. While these atypical reactions indicate a possible psychophysiological pathway leading to adverse cardiovascular events amongst Type Ds, it appears that Type D males are particularly vulnerable to socially based stressors, exhibiting exaggerated cardiovascular reactions.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10484-019-09447-xDOI Listing
December 2019

Pre-service Teachers and Stress During Microteaching: An Experimental Investigation of the Effectiveness of Relaxation Training with Biofeedback on Psychological and Physiological Indices of Stress.

Appl Psychophysiol Biofeedback 2018 09;43(3):217-225

Mary Immaculate College, University of Limerick, Limerick, Ireland.

Pre-service teacher stress is an understudied research area, with the majority of research focusing on subjective reports of stress. The present study sought to examine the influence of stress-reduction techniques on both subjective and objective indicators of stress during microteaching in preservice teachers. A sample of 44 preservice teachers were randomly assigned to one of three intervention groups; biofeedback, relaxation, or control. Participants in the biofeedback group received relaxation-assisted biofeedback training designed to teach participants the physiological signs of the stress response using HeartMath monitor, along with the HeartMath Quick Coherence® technique. Those in the relaxation group were given training in the HeartMath Quick Coherence relaxation technique, with no biofeedback training. Finally, those in the control group did not receive any relaxation or biofeedback training. Using a repeated-measures design, both psychological and physiological indices of stress were measured before and after students engaged in microteaching approaches. Examination of the psychological ratings identified that feelings of calm increased across time; this showed that participants were more comfortable with the microteaching situation with repeated practice. However, none of the physiological interventions were effective in reducing stress. The present study highlights practice as a useful strategy to reduce stress in microteaching situations and points to the importance of employing evidence-based interventions when attempting to reduce stress.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10484-018-9401-9DOI Listing
September 2018

Cognitive Bias of Interpretation in Type D Personality: Associations with Physiological Indices of Arousal.

Appl Psychophysiol Biofeedback 2018 09;43(3):193-201

Department of Psychology, Mary Immaculate College, University of Limerick, Limerick, Ireland.

It is argued that the Type D person experiences increased distress when encountering social situations, which results in altered stress responding. However, little is known about how Type D individuals behave or feel during social interactions. Using a within-subjects design, the present study examined the physiological arousal of Type D and non-Type D individuals when rating how they would deal with a number of hypothetical social situations. Results showed that across all social situations, Type D individuals experienced greater levels of discomfort. In clearly negative and ambiguously neutral situations, this was paired with higher pulse rate. This study shows that the Type D individual not only reports greater discomfort but also experiences changes physiologically that support the role of the cardiovascular system as a potential psychosomatic pathway to disease.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10484-018-9397-1DOI Listing
September 2018

Openness to experience and stress responsivity: An examination of cardiovascular and underlying hemodynamic trajectories within an acute stress exposure.

PLoS One 2018 18;13(6):e0199221. Epub 2018 Jun 18.

School of Psychology, National University of Ireland, Galway, Ireland.

The personality trait openness to experience has been implicated in health, and in particular cardiovascular wellbeing. In a sample of 62 healthy young female adults, the role of openness in cardiovascular responsivity during a stress exposure was examined. Traditionally, methodologies have averaged a stress exposure into a single reading. This may be limited in that it does not consider patterns of cardiovascular adaptation within a stress exposure. Continuous cardiovascular data were reduced to mean 10 second readings, with phases determined through examinations of shifts in responsivity between each 10 second pairing. Analyses revealed a significant linear interaction for openness across the entire exposure for systolic blood pressure, and cardiac output. A significant between-subjects effect for heart rate also emerged. Contrary to their lower counterparts, those highest in openness exhibited an increasingly myocardial hemodynamic response profile throughout the exposure. Comparisons of responsivity suggests adaptive stress response trajectories for those highest in openness. This study also provides evidence that an attenuation of myocardial responsivity may underpin blunted responsivity. This study provides a potential mechanism in reported openness-health associations.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0199221PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6005471PMC
April 2019

Cardiovascular stress-response adaptation: Conceptual basis, empirical findings, and implications for disease processes.

Int J Psychophysiol 2018 09 6;131:4-12. Epub 2018 Feb 6.

Department of Psychology, University of Limerick, Ireland.

Cardiovascular reactivity to stress is an established marker of lifetime disease risk, with both elevated and blunted reactions empirically identified as being predictive of ill-health. However, in the relevant studies, traditional laboratory protocols do not account for patterns of response adaptation across time, patterns that may be particularly important in the prediction of future health outcomes. We outline the evidence suggesting that habituation to repeated or prolonged stress represents an informative and health-relevant aspect of the cardiovascular stress response. In this position paper, we outline what studies of cardiovascular adaptation have elucidated to date. Cardiovascular response habituation occurs for various types of stressor, is most pronounced after initial stress responses have subsided (making initial stress responses potentially misleading if scrutinized in isolation), emerges in both women and men, and is subject to individual differences. Such moderating factors fit within the biopsychosocial model, suggesting that CVR adaptation is etiologically relevant and potentially modifiable through intervention. However, as yet, there is no prospective evidence to confirm that patterns of adaptation predict adverse health, despite there being strong reasonable and logical grounds to suspect so. We suggest how existing studies may offer a means to fill this gap in prospective evidence, and outline four potential typologies in cardiovascular reactivity patterns that fit within and extend the classic reactivity hypothesis.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ijpsycho.2018.02.003DOI Listing
September 2018

Sleep restriction undermines cardiovascular adaptation during stress, contingent on emotional stability.

Biol Psychol 2018 02 12;132:125-132. Epub 2017 Dec 12.

Reykjavik University, Iceland.

Sleep loss is associated with increased cardiovascular disease, but physiological mechanisms accounting for this relationship are largely unknown. One possible mechanism is that sleep restriction exerts effects on cardiovascular stress responses, and that these effects vary between individuals. Emotional stability (ES) is a personality trait pertinent to sleep restriction and stress responding. However, no study to date has explored how ES and sleep-restriction interactively affect cardiovascular stress responses or processes of adaptation during stress. The present study sought to investigate the association between ES and impact of sleep restriction on cardiovascular function during stress, with particular regard to the trajectory of cardiovascular function change across time. Ninety female university students completed a laboratory vigilance stress task while undergoing continuous cardiovascular (SBP, DBP, HR, SV, CO, TPR) monitoring, after either a night of partial sleep restriction (40% of habitual sleep duration) or a full night's rest. Individuals high in ES showed stable and adaptive cardiovascular (SBP, SV, CO) responses throughout stress exposure, regardless of sleep. In contrast, individuals low in ES exhibited cardiovascular adaptation during stress exposure while rested, but disrupted adaption while sleep-restricted. These findings suggest that sleep-restriction undermines healthful cardiovascular adaptation to stress for individuals low in ES.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.biopsycho.2017.11.013DOI Listing
February 2018

Openness to experience and adapting to change: Cardiovascular stress habituation to change in acute stress exposure.

Psychophysiology 2018 05 17;55(5):e13023. Epub 2017 Oct 17.

School of Psychology, National University of Ireland, Galway, Galway, Ireland.

Underlying psychophysiological mechanisms of effect linking openness to experience to health outcomes, and particularly cardiovascular well-being, are unknown. This study examined the role of openness in the context of cardiovascular responsivity to acute psychological stress. Continuous cardiovascular response data were collected for 74 healthy young female adults across an experimental protocol, including differing counterbalanced acute stressors. Openness was measured via self-report questionnaire. Analysis of covariance revealed openness was associated with systolic blood pressure (SBP; p = .016), and diastolic blood pressure (DBP; p = .036) responsivity across the protocol. Openness was also associated with heart rate (HR) responding to the initial stress exposure (p = .044). Examination of cardiovascular adaptation revealed that higher openness was associated with significant SBP (p = .001), DBP (p = .009), and HR (p = .002) habituation in response to the second differing acute stress exposure. Taken together, the findings suggest persons higher in openness are characterized by an adaptive cardiovascular stress response profile within the context of changing acute stress exposures. This study is also the first to demonstrate individual differences in cardiovascular adaptation across a protocol consisting of differing stress exposures. More broadly, this research also suggests that future research may benefit from conceptualizing an adaptive fitness of openness within the context of change. In summary, the present study provides evidence that higher openness stimulates short-term stress responsivity, while ensuring cardiovascular habituation to change in stress across time.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/psyp.13023DOI Listing
May 2018

Perceived social support predicts lower cardiovascular reactivity to stress in older adults.

Biol Psychol 2017 04 22;125:70-75. Epub 2017 Feb 22.

Reykjavik University, Iceland.

The benefits of perceived social support for physical and psychological health are well-established. However, little research has explored associations between perceived social support and cardiovascular reactivity in older adults. This exploratory study recruited a sample of older adults (M=69years, SD=5.62) and examined quality and quantity of perceived social support as predictors of cardiovascular reactivity to laboratory-based stress (N=39 participants) and ambulatory cardiovascular activity in everyday life (n=28). The results suggest that quality, but not quantity, of perceived social support predicts reduced blood pressure reactivity to stress in the laboratory. Although quality of support was not associated with ambulatory blood pressure, results suggest that quantity of daily social support may be associated with higher ambulatory heart rate, but not with social contact during measurement. This preliminary study extends prior work on social support and cardiovascular function to a group of older adults in both laboratory and field settings. Challenges for much-needed future research in this area are discussed.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.biopsycho.2017.02.006DOI Listing
April 2017

Repressive coping and cardiovascular reactivity to novel and recurrent stress.

Anxiety Stress Coping 2017 Sep 20;30(5):562-574. Epub 2017 Jan 20.

c School of Psychology , National University of Ireland , Galway , Ireland.

Background And Objectives: Repressors tend to report less negative emotion and to describe challenges as less stressful, yet tend to exhibit higher rates of cardiovascular disease. While repressive coping has been shown to be associated with exaggerated physiological reactivity to novel stress, we sought to establish if elevated responses persisted across repeated exposure.

Design And Methods: In a sample of 86 healthy female adults, a verbal-autonomic response dissociation index of repressive coping was computed. Participants were exposed to two consecutive stress tasks, with analyses based on comparisons of consecutive stress responses.

Results: Analysis of covariance demonstrated significant differences across the study on diastolic blood pressure and cardiac output, as a function of repressive coping. Repressors showed elevated reactions to both stress tasks; however, cardiac output responses to the second task were more muted indicating that repressive coping was associated with successful adaptation to recurrent stress. Nevertheless, repressive copers maintained an exaggerated cardiovascular responses to recurrent stress.

Conclusions: The present study identifies that repressive coping may be associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease development through elevated cardiovascular reactions to both novel and recurrent stress.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10615806.2016.1274027DOI Listing
September 2017

Conscientiousness and mindfulness in midlife coping: An assessment based on MIDUS II.

Personal Ment Health 2016 Feb 22;10(1):29-42. Epub 2015 Nov 22.

National University of Ireland, University Road, Galway, Ireland.

Research has demonstrated that conscientious individuals tend to engage in planful problem solving to cope with stressful situations. Likewise, mindful individuals tend to favour approach-based coping and are less likely to engage in avoidant coping strategies. To examine whether conscientiousness and mindfulness determined agentic coping behaviour, hierarchical linear regressions were conducted using data from 602 participants drawn from the National Survey of Midlife Development in the United States (MIDUS) Study II and MIDUS II Biomarker Project. Personality responses were derived from the five-factor model inventory, gathered at a single time-point. Results revealed that conscientiousness predicted problem-focused coping (p < 0.001; β = 0.23) and inversely predicted emotion-focused coping respectively (p < 0.001; β = -0.14), even after controlling for remaining Big Five and confounding variables. Mindfulness also predicted problem-focused coping (p < 0.001; β = 0.21). Neuroticism predicted emotion-focused coping (p < 0.001; β = 0.40). These findings suggest that conscientiousness and mindfulness may contribute to coping responses in potentially healthful ways, highlighting new evidence regarding the potential protective role of conscientiousness.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/pmh.1323DOI Listing
February 2016

Differential hemodynamic effects during the provision of active and passive support in the laboratory.

Psychol Health 2015 20;30(9):1088-102. Epub 2015 Mar 20.

a Department of Psychology , University of Limerick , Limerick , Ireland.

Objective: Recent research has pointed to the cardiovascular benefits of providing social support to others in times of stress; however, little is known about what factors influence such benefits.

Design And Measures: In a between-groups design, we investigated the possible interaction between intimacy (friend vs. stranger) and support type (active vs. passive) in determining the cardiovascular responses of support providers. Eighty participants had their blood pressure and heart rate monitored while providing either active or passive social support to a friend or a stranger who completed a stress task.

Results: Although there was no interaction effect, a significant main effect showed that those who provided passive support showed larger decreases relative to those in the active support condition. There was no effect of intimacy. Further, these effects withstood adjustment for a number of potential confounds (e.g. sex and body mass index).

Conclusion: It appears that the greatest physiological benefit for social support providers may come from providing passive, rather than active support, regardless of whether the support receiver is a friend or a stranger.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/08870446.2015.1024246DOI Listing
September 2015

Dyadic concordance in mother and preschooler resting cardiovascular function varies by risk status.

Dev Psychobiol 2014 Jan 11;56(1):142-52. Epub 2013 Sep 11.

Centre for Research on Occupational and Life Stress, National University of Ireland, University Rd., Galway, Ireland.

This study examined concordance in heart rate (HR) and respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) in a sample of 104 child-maltreating (CM) and nonCM mother-preschooler dyads (208 individuals). In a laboratory setting, mother and child cardiac physiology was simultaneously monitored via ECG in a 5-min resting period. Mothers ranged in age from 20 to 49 years; children ranged in age from 3 to 5 years. Significant within-dyad (WD) and between-dyad (BD) associations were observed for mother HR and both child HR and RSA, and the associations were moderated by CM status. Only CM dyads exhibited BD associations: Higher average maternal HR was associated with higher child HR and lower child RSA. By contrast, when the time interval was divided into 30 s epochs, nonCM dyads exhibited positive WD (dynamic) associations in mother and child HR, and both CM and nonCM dyads showed negative WD associations in mother HR and child RSA. Further, mothers' mean HR levels moderated the extent of epoch-by-epoch WD concordance observed in mother and child, such that elevated average maternal HR was associated with lower levels of WD (dynamic) concordance. No BD or WD concordance in maternal and child RSA was observed. The findings suggest that measures of intraindividual variation provide useful, alternate perspectives in the study of dyadic processes in at-risk families.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/dev.21098DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3963270PMC
January 2014

Type D personality is associated with a sensitized cardiovascular response to recurrent stress in men.

Biol Psychol 2013 Oct 8;94(2):450-5. Epub 2013 Sep 8.

Department of Psychology, Mary Immaculate College, University of Limerick, South Circular Road, Limerick, Ireland. Electronic address:

The present study sought to examine the role of gender and Type D personality on cardiovascular reactivity to stress, by examining patterns of cardiovascular adaptation to recurrent laboratory-based stress. Cardiovascular data were collected from 76 students who, following an initial 10-min baseline period, underwent two cognitive stress tasks. Type D personality was assessed using the 16-item Type D scale. Adaptation of cardiovascular response to recurrent stress was examined by scrutinizing the changes in systolic blood pressure (SBP), diastolic blood pressure (DBP), and heart rate (HR) across the procedure. Female participants and non-Type D males showed cardiovascular habituation to recurrent stress. For Type D males, however, cardiovascular sensitization was evident. The results implicate Type D personality in maladaptive cardiovascular responses, particularly in men, highlighting a possible direct mechanism of psychosomatic cardiovascular pathogenesis.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.biopsycho.2013.09.001DOI Listing
October 2013

An experimental test of blunting using sleep-restriction as an acute stressor in Type D and non-Type D women.

Int J Psychophysiol 2013 Oct 13;90(1):37-43. Epub 2013 Mar 13.

Centre for Research on Occupational and Life Stress, National University of Ireland, Galway, University Road, Galway, Ireland. Electronic address:

Recent years have seen a growing interest in evidence indicating that a low, or blunted, cardiovascular response to stress may predict increased risk for a range of adverse health outcomes. Type D personality has been associated with poor health in cardiac patients, and more recently, has been associated with lower reactivity to laboratory stress in healthy individuals, underpinned by an increase in vascular responding. Previous findings have also demonstrated that partial sleep restriction is characterised by a robust vascular profile. However, despite the fact that a vascular response profile underpins both reactivity in sleep restricted adults and blunted reactivity in healthy Type D adults, limited empirical work has examined the correlates of sleep restriction and Type D. The present study sought to investigate if manipulation of sleep duration in healthy Type D and non-Type D individuals would alter cardiovascular reactivity to stress, and in particular whether such manipulation could elucidate the comparative nature of blunting. Seventy female university students completed a laboratory social stress task while undergoing continuous hemodynamic monitoring, after either a night of partial sleep restriction or a full night's rest. In both groups, Type D participants exhibited relatively low SBP stress responses, consistent with the view that at-risk groups show blunting in (some indices of) cardiovascular reactivity. For non-Type D participants, low SBP responses were observed only in participants who had undergone sleep restriction, suggesting that sleep-restriction served as an environmental stressor which precipitated in non-Type D persons a cardiovascular stress response resembling that ordinarily seen in Type D persons. This blunted response was associated with an increase in vascular responding. Thus, the findings suggest that blunting is characterised not only by reductions in some (frequently studied) cardiovascular parameters, but also by increases in others.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ijpsycho.2013.02.006DOI Listing
October 2013

Social support and trait personality are independently associated with resting cardiovascular function in women.

Br J Health Psychol 2013 Sep 24;18(3):556-73. Epub 2012 Oct 24.

Centre for Research on Occupational and Life Stress, National University of Ireland, Galway, Ireland.

Objectives: Social support is thought to positively influence appraisals of stressors and coping resources, thereby attenuating the harmful effects of stress. Notably, perceived available support (rather than actually received support) is believed to benefit well-being independent of the sense of obligation or threats to self-esteem that receiving support may entail. This study examined whether perceived support levels were associated with reduced cardiovascular levels, an important predictor of cardiovascular disease risk, independent of broad trait personality variables frequently reported to overlap with perceived support. In doing so, we sought to determine whether the effects of perceived support are independent of links between personality and social support.

Design: A cross-sectional design was employed.

Methods: Resting cardiovascular levels were measured using a Finometer in a sample of healthy women (N = 145). The Short-Form Social Support Questionnaire and the Revised Eysenck's Personality Questionnaire were used to assess support levels and personality. Regression was used to compare associations with psychometric indices of support (namely, perceived network size and perceived satisfaction with support) and personality (psychoticism, extraversion and neuroticism).

Results: Support independently predicted systolic blood pressure (SBP; p = .03) and HR (p = .02) when personality was controlled for, while personality also predicted SBP (p = .01) and DBP (p = .02). Support effects were not mediated by personality.

Conclusions: The findings corroborate previous research indicating links between support and resting cardiovascular levels and additionally demonstrate these to be independent of associations between support and personality.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/bjhp.12001DOI Listing
September 2013

Matching intra-procedural information with coping style reduces psychophysiological arousal in women undergoing colposcopy.

J Behav Med 2013 Aug 24;36(4):401-12. Epub 2012 Jun 24.

School of Psychology, National University of Ireland, Galway, Galway, Ireland.

This study assessed the combined effects of coping style and intra-procedural information on indices of distress (physiological measures, observed distress, self-report measures of anxiety and affect) among a group of patients undergoing colposcopy. High and low monitors were exposed to one of three interventions: high information (live video feed of colposcopy); low information (complete audiovisual distraction); and control. Results revealed a 2 (monitoring style) × 3 (information level) × 2 (time) interaction for systolic blood pressure (SBP), F(2, 111) = 3.55, p = .032. Among low monitors, patients in the low-information group exhibited significant SBP reductions during colposcopy, while those in the high-information group exhibited SBP increases. Among high monitors, patients in the high-information and control groups exhibited SBP reductions. Further, significant differences in observed signs of distress were found between groups with high monitors in the low-information group faring best overall, F(2, 111) = 4.41, p = .014. These findings indicate that tailoring information to suit individual coping style may maximize the apparent efficacy of interventions aimed at reducing stress during medical examinations.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10865-012-9435-zDOI Listing
August 2013

Stress reactivity and the Hemodynamic Profile-Compensation Deficit (HP-CD) Model of blood pressure regulation.

Biol Psychol 2012 May 3;90(2):161-70. Epub 2012 Mar 3.

Department of Psychology, Reykjavík University, Reykjavík, Iceland.

Considering the central role of the concept of blood pressure reactivity to explanations of the influence of life stress in the pathogenesis of cardiovascular disease, it is important that the underlying psychophysiological determinants of blood pressure change are elucidated. Empirical evidence is reviewed concerning the utility of the Hemodynamic Profile-Compensation Deficit (HP-CD) Model (Gregg et al., 2002), which draws on physiological theory that explains blood pressure regulation as a dynamic compensatory relation between cardiac output and total peripheral resistance. Core constructs and quantitative features of the Model are explained, accompanied by a focussed review of the Model's application in reactivity studies of stress, lifestyle behaviours, laboratory-to-field generalisability, and personality differences. Although the available studies are relatively few in number, evidence of the Model's utility is promising. Application of the Model in further research could help to elucidate cardiovascular pathogenesis in ways not achievable through the study of blood pressure reactivity alone.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.biopsycho.2012.02.021DOI Listing
May 2012

Benefit of social support for resilience-building is contingent on social context: examining cardiovascular adaptation to recurrent stress in women.

Anxiety Stress Coping 2012 Jul 11;25(4):411-23. Epub 2012 Jan 11.

Centre for Research on Occupational and Life Stress, National University of Ireland, Galway, University Road, Galway, Ireland.

Previous work on social support and stress tolerance using laboratory-based cardiovascular stress response paradigms has suggested that perceived social support may be effective in building resilience in recipients. However, such paradigms are often socially de-contextualized insofar as they fail to take account of the social aspects of stress itself. Using 90 healthy college women, the present study sought to examine the association between self-reported perceived social support and cardiovascular stress tolerance. Participants underwent two consecutive exposures to a mental arithmetic task. On second exposure to the stressor, participants completed the task under either social threat or control conditions. Social threat was manipulated using socially salient instructions, to create a high social context. Adaptation to stress was established in terms of comparisons between cardiovascular responses to successive exposures. Results showed that cardiovascular responses tended to habituate across time, with perceived social support associated with the degree of habituation, but only under certain contextual conditions; high perceived support was associated with effective habituation under control conditions only. This response pattern is consistent with the view that high perceived social support buffers against stress in healthful ways, but only in asocial contexts.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10615806.2011.640933DOI Listing
July 2012

Cardiovascular reactivity of younger and older adults to positive-, negative-, and mixed-emotion cognitive challenge.

Biol Psychol 2012 Mar 9;89(3):553-61. Epub 2012 Jan 9.

School of Psychology, National University of Ireland, Galway, Ireland.

Although aging is associated with progressive increases in blood pressure level, previous research has been inconsistent as to whether older adults show greater or lesser cardiovascular reactivity (CVR) to emotion than do younger adults. There is reason to believe that these inconsistencies could be clarified by examining age-related differences in hemodynamic profile revealed by measuring the pattern of cardiac output and total peripheral resistance associated with changes in blood pressure reactivity. Accordingly, the present study examined the performance, CVR, and hemodynamic profile of younger and older adults during encoding and recognition of word pairs involving four valence types: positive, negative, mixed (positive/negative), and neutral word pairs. Results revealed higher baseline blood pressure, increased CVR characterized by a vascular hemodynamic profile, and more rapid recovery (especially during encoding) for older than for younger participants. Results are discussed in light of research and theory on the relationship between aging and cardiovascular health.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.biopsycho.2011.12.021DOI Listing
March 2012

Construct, concurrent and discriminant validity of Type D personality in the general population: associations with anxiety, depression, stress and cardiac output.

Psychol Health 2012 2;27(2):242-58. Epub 2011 Aug 2.

Centre for Research on Occupational and Life Stress, National University of Ireland, Galway, University Road, Galway, Ireland.

The Type D personality, identified by high negative affectivity paired with high social inhibition, has been associated with a number of health-related outcomes in (mainly) cardiac populations. However, despite its prevalence in the health-related literature, how this personality construct fits within existing personality theory has not been directly tested. Using a sample of 134 healthy university students, this study examined the Type D personality in terms of two well-established personality traits; introversion and neuroticism. Construct, concurrent and discriminant validity of this personality type was established through examination of the associations between the Type D personality and psychometrically assessed anxiety, depression and stress, as well as measurement of resting cardiovascular function. Results showed that while the Type D personality was easily represented using alternative measures of both introversion and neuroticism, associations with anxiety, depression and stress were mainly accounted for by neuroticism. Conversely, however, associations with resting cardiac output were attributable to the negative affectivity-social inhibition synergy, explicit within the Type D construct. Consequently, both the construct and concurrent validity of this personality type were confirmed, with discriminant validity evident on examination of physiological indices of well-being.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/08870446.2011.603423DOI Listing
June 2012

Type D personality and hemodynamic reactivity to laboratory stress in women.

Int J Psychophysiol 2011 May 17;80(2):96-102. Epub 2011 Feb 17.

Centre for Research on Occupational and Life Stress (CROLS), National University of Ireland, Galway, University Road, Galway, Ireland.

The Type D personality (identified by high levels of both negative affectivity and social inhibition) has been associated with negative health consequences in cardiac patients. However, few studies have explored whether the Type D personality is associated with particular patterns of cardiovascular responses to stress. In the present study, cardiovascular reactivity to psychological stress (CVR) was examined as a possible mediating mechanism by which Type D personality may affect cardiovascular health, with specific focus on hemodynamic profile. Eighty-nine female university students completed a mental arithmetic stressor while undergoing hemodynamic monitoring. Blood pressure, heart rate, cardiac output, and total peripheral resistance in response to the stressor were examined. Type D personality was assessed using the 16-item Type D scale. Results indicated that there were no between-group differences in magnitude of blood pressure increase, with both Type D and non-Type D individuals demonstrating myocardial response profiles. However, Type D individuals were less "myocardial" than non-Type D individuals. This indicates that a weak myocardial response to an active stressor in Type D individuals may be indicative of hemodynamic maladaptation to stress, implicating CVR as a possible mechanism involved in Type D-cardiovascular health associations.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ijpsycho.2011.02.006DOI Listing
May 2011
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