University of Limerick
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Blunted cardiovascular reactivity to psychological stress and prospective health: a systematic review

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journal contribution
posted on 2024-02-22, 14:28 authored by Adam O'RiordanAdam O'Riordan, Siobhán HowardSiobhán Howard, Stephen GallagherStephen Gallagher

Novel research demonstrates that lower or ‘blunted’ cardiovascular reactions to stress are associated with a range of adverse outcomes. The aim of the current review was (1) to examine the prospective outcomes predicted by blunted cardiovascular reactivity and (2) to identify a range of blunted cardiovascular reaction levels that predict these outcomes. Electronic databases were systematically searched (Medline, PsycArticles, PsycInfo, CINAHL, PubMed, Web of Science). Studies were included if they examined the prospective influence of blunted cardiovascular reactivity to psychological stress (SBP, DBP or HR) on a negative health, behavioural or psychological outcome. A total of 23 studies were included in the review. Blunted reactivity predicted (1) adverse cardiovascular health, primarily in cardiac samples (e.g., myocardial infarction, carotid atherosclerosis) and (2) outcomes associated with motivational and behavioural dysregulation in healthy samples (e.g., obesity, smoking addiction, depression). The cardiovascular reactivity threshold levels that were predictive of adverse health outcomes ranged between −3.00–12.59 bpm (14.41% to 136.59% lower than the sample mean) and −2.4–5.00 mmhg (65.99% to 133.80% lower than sample mean), for HR and DBP respectively. We posit that blunted reactions lower than, or equal to, the ranges reported here may be utilised by clinicians and researchers to identify individuals who are at increased risk of adverse cardiovascular health outcomes, as well as outcomes associated with motivational and behavioural dysregulation.



Health Psychology Review, 2023, 17 (1), pp. 121-147


Taylor and Francis

Other Funding information

This work was supported by the Irish Research Council [grant number GOIPG/2019/1354] and the John & Pauline Ryan Endowed Research Scholarship Programme.

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  • Health Research Institute (HRI)

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  • (3) Good Health and Well-being

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  • Psychology

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