Cynical hostility relates to a lack of habituation of the cardiovascular response to repeated acute stress.


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Hostility is associated with cardiovascular disease risk. Heightened cardiovascular reactivity (CVR) to psychological stress has been proposed as a mechanism. Recent work has emphasized a need to measure CVR across multiple stress exposures to assess potential adaptation over time. In the current study, 196 participants completed 2 separate laboratory sessions, consisting of a 20-minute baseline and 15-minute stressor. Heart rate (HR) and systolic/diastolic blood pressure (SBP/DBP) were recorded throughout. Reactivity was calculated separately for HR, SBP, and DBP (stress – baseline). Participants also completed the Cook-Medley Hostility Scale. Results indicated that greater cognitive hostility (i.e., cynicism) was associated with blunted CVR at Visit 1 and less CVR habituation between visits, even when controlling for confounding variables. No significant relationships were found for emotional or behavioral hostility. These results identify a potential pathway through which hostility contributes to disease risk. This study utilized previously collected data from the Pittsburgh Cold Study 3.



Psychological stress. Stressor-evoked cardiovascular reactivity. Physiological habituation. Hostility.