Hostility is associated with increased risk for cardiovascular disease. Heightened cardiovascular reactivity to psychological stress has been proposed as a potential mechanism. Recent work has emphasized a need to measure cardiovascular reactivity across multiple stress exposures to assess potential habituation over time.
The aims of the current study were (a) to examine the relationship between each of the three main components of hostility (i.e., emotional, cognitive, and behavioral) and cardiovascular reactivity at two separate stress testing visits and (b) to examine the relationship between hostility components and cardiovascular reactivity habituation. This study utilized previously collected data from the Pittsburgh Cold Study 3. One hundred and ninety‐six participants (Mean (SD)[range] age = 29.9 (10.8)[18–55] years, 42.9% female, 67.3% Caucasian) completed 2 separate, identical laboratory sessions, consisting of a 20‐min baseline and 15‐min stress (Trier Social Stress Test).
Heart rate and systolic/diastolic blood pressure were recorded throughout. Reactivity was calculated separately for heart rate, systolic, and diastolic blood pressure (stress—baseline). Participants also completed a modified version of the Cook‐Medley Hostility Scale. Results indicated that greater cognitive hostility (i.e., cynicism) was associated with blunted cardiovascular reactivity at Visit 1 and less cardiovascular reactivity habituation between visits, even when controlling for confounding variables. No significant relationships to cardiovascular reactivity or habituation were found for emotional (i.e., hostile affect) or behavioral (i.e., aggressive responding) components.
Outcomes for total hostility did not survive adjustment for confounders. These results identify a potential pathway through which hostility, particularly cynicism, contributes to disease risk.