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Social Support Versus Social Evaluation: Unique Effects on Vascular and Myocardial Response Patterns

Christian, Lisa M. MA; Stoney, Catherine M. PhD

doi: 10.1097/
Original Articles

Objectives: This study examined the effects of companion presence and evaluation on cardiovascular reactivity to an acute stressor.

Methods: Eighty-two women completed a speech task in one of four conditions: with an evaluative companion present, with a nonevaluative companion present, alone while being evaluated by a companion with a video camera, or alone while the companion waited outside.

Results: A significant interaction between companion condition and evaluative condition on systolic blood pressure was found; women who were evaluated while alone demonstrated significantly greater reactivity than did women who were in the nonevaluative alone condition. Furthermore, both potential for evaluation and the presence of a companion had important influences on hemodynamic parameters underlying the blood pressure response. Specifically, those in evaluative conditions showed greater myocardial responding than those in nonevaluative conditions and those in alone conditions showed greater vascular responding than did those with companions present. Taken together, those in the evaluative alone condition demonstrated systolic blood pressure responses reflecting both myocardial and vascular contributions.

Conclusions: Social support and social evaluation have unique effects on vascular and myocardial responding. The implications for future research include focus on the stress-buffering model of social support and the value of including impedance cardiography measures in investigations of cardiovascular functioning.

CVD = cardiovascular disease; SBP = systolic blood pressure; DBP = diastolic blood pressure; MAP = mean arterial pressure; TPR = total peripheral resistance; TPRI = total peripheral resistance index; CO = cardiac output; CI = cardiac index; PEP = preejection period; SV = stroke volume; BMI = body mass index; BSA = body surface area.

From Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio (L.M.C.); and the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland (C.M.S.).

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Catherine M. Stoney, PhD, National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, NIH, 6707 Democracy Boulevard, Suite 401, Bethesda, MD 20892. E-mail:

This project was supported in part by NIH grants HL068956 and training grant T32AI55411 (L.M.C.).

Received for publication February 15, 2006; revision received June 28, 2006.

Copyright © 2006 by American Psychosomatic Society
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