Preliminary evidence of attenuated blood pressure reactivity to acute stress in adults following a recent marital separation

Austin M. Grinberg, Karey L. O’Hara, David A. Sbarra

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Objective: This study explores cardiovascular reactivity during an acute-stress task in a sample of recently separated adults. Design: In a cross-sectional design, we examined the association between adults’ subjective separation-related distress and changes in heart rate and blood pressure across the acute-stress laboratory paradigm in a sample of 133 (n = 49 men) recently separated adults. Main outcome measures: Heart rate (HR) and Blood pressure (BP) were recorded across a resting baseline period, a math stressor task, and a recovery period. Results: Multilevel analyses revealed that adults who reported greater separation-related distress exhibited higher initial BP and a slower linear increase in BP across the study period. In addition, adults reporting greater separation-related distress evidenced significantly slower declines in diastolic blood pressure (DBP) following the acute-stress task. HR reactivity was not moderated by separation-related distress. Conclusions: In recently separated adults, preliminary evidence suggests that the context of the stressors may reveal differential patterns of problematic reactivity (exaggerated or blunted responding). Greater emotional intrusion and hyperactivity symptoms may index increased risk for blunted cardiovascular reactivity to general stressors. This pattern of reactivity is consistent with models of allostatic load that emphasise the deleterious effect of hyporesponsivity to environmental demands.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)430-444
Number of pages15
JournalPsychology and Health
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 4 2018


  • blood pressure
  • blunted cardiovascular reactivity
  • divorce
  • health outcomes
  • marital separation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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