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Effects of Cynical Hostility, Anger Out, Anxiety, and Defensiveness on Ambulatory Blood Pressure in Black and White College Students

Shapiro, David PhD; Goldstein, Iris B. PhD; Jamner, Larry D. PhD

Original Article

This study asked whether individual differences in four personality traits (cynical hostility, anger out, anxiety, and defensiveness) would predict waking and sleeping ambulatory blood pressure and heart rate and whether information about these traits would provide a source of racial and gender differences in these measures.Ambulatory blood pressure and heart rate were recorded over a 24-hour period in 58 black and 86 white college students equally divided by gender. Waking and sleeping values were examined as a function of gender, race, and personality factors. Independent of personality factors, women had lower ambulatory blood pressure and higher heart rate than men, and black subjects had higher blood pressure levels and less of a decrease in heart rate from waking to sleeping than white subjects. The above differences were associated with personality factors. Black subjects scoring high on cynical hostility had elevated daytime and nighttime systolic pressure. Black subjects scoring high on both anxiety and defensiveness had higher waking diastolic blood pressure. Additional effects were shown for heart rate as a function of anger out, anxiety, and defensiveness. Given the special significance of ambulatory blood pressure for cardiovascular disease, these findings underscore the importance of personality factors for cardiovascular risk and their relevance for race and gender differences in this risk.

From the Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences (D.S., I.B.G.), University of California, Los Angeles, California and the Department of Psychology and Social Behavior (L.D.J.), University of California, Irvine, California.

Address reprint requests to: David Shapiro, PhD, UCLA Department of Psychiatry, 760 Westwood Plaza, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1759.

Received for publication July 31, 1995; revision received October 18, 1995.

Copyright © 1996 by American Psychosomatic Society
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