International Journal of Psychology and Psychological Therapy

Volume 8 Num. 1 - March 2008


Factors that moderate the effect of laboratory-based social support on cardiovascular reactivity to stress

Volume 8 Num. 1 - March 2008 - Pages 85-102


Aoife O?Donovan and Brian M. Hughes


Social support has been associated with cardiovascular disease (CVD) morbidity and mortality.
Cardiovascular reactivity to stress (CVR) is thought to mediate the association between
social support and CVD. Examining the effects of laboratory analogues of social support
on CVR offers the possibility of experimental control over important confounding variables
in social support research; however, such research has yielded conflicting findings.
While a number of researchers found that laboratory-based social support attenuated CVR,
others found increased CVR when social support was provided, and even that social support
had no effect on CVR. A review of the relevant literature suggests that this inconsistency
may be associated with a range of methodological issues relating to social support
manipulations, evaluation potential, experimenter behaviour, sample characteristics, and
personality variables that moderate the observed relationship between social support and
CVR. Implications for social support research and for the design of socially supportive
interventions are discussed.

Key words:

social support, acute stress, cardiovascular reactivity, cardiovascular disease

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