Does Subjective Socioeconomic Status Relate to Health Outcomes?: Blunted and Exaggerated Cardiovascular Responses to Stress
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Lower levels of subjective and objective socioeconomic status (SES) and stress are related to adverse cardiovascular outcomes. Individual differences in cardiovascular responses to stress has been proposed as a potential mechanism underlying this relationship. Aim: examine the relationship between cardiovascular stress reactivity and both subjective and objective SES. Study 1: 88 (67.9% female, 51.7% Caucasian and an age range = 18 to 62 years [M = 26.9, SD = 10.7]) participants completed the MacArthur Scale of Social Status, a 10-minute baseline period and a 10-minute stress task. Blood pressure (BP) and heart rate (HR) were assessed throughout the baseline and stress periods. Reactivity was calculated as: stress – average baseline for each cardiovascular parameter. Results indicated a positive relationship between both HR and systolic BP reactivity and subjective SES (r = 0.29, p = .007) and (r = 0.24, p = .027), respectively. Lower subjective SES was associated with blunted cardiovascular responses. Study 2: 123 (66.7% female, 62.6% Caucasian and an age range = 18 to 23 years [M = 19.1, SD = 0.850]) participants completed the same procedure aside from a 4-minute stress task instead of 10 minutes and the addition of a questionnaire component assessing their parents’ occupational status. Both increased HR and systolic BP reactivity were related to lower objective SES (r = -0.26, p = .004) and (r = -0.22, p = .020), respectively. Individuals with lower objective SES had exaggerated cardiovascular responses; there were no significant relationships between cardiovascular responses and subjective SES. The current two study thesis contributed to competing claims regarding the directionality of the relationship between SES and cardiovascular reactivity.