Published:  2008-12-01

Cardiovascular activity during laboratory tasks in women with high and low worry

Authors:  Michael M. Knepp, Bruce H. Friedman

Tags:  Anxiety, Autonomic nervous system, Cardiovascular reactivity, Heart rate variability, Worry

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Worry has been related to delayed stress recovery and cardiovascular disease risk. Cardiovascular responses to a range of laboratory tasks were examined in this study of high and low worriers. Undergraduate women were recruited with the Penn State Worry Questionnaire to form low (n=19) and high (n=22) worry groups. These individuals engaged in six laboratory tasks (orthostatic stress, supine rest, hand cold pressor, mental arithmetic, and worry and relaxation imagery) while heart rate (HR), HR spectral analysis, impedance cardiography, and blood pressure were acquired. The only significant group difference found was a consistently greater HR across tasks in high worriers (p<.05). No group by condition interactions emerged. High trait worry in healthy young women appears to be marked by elevated HR in the absence of autonomic abnormalities. These findings are discussed relative to the literature on worry, with particular reference to its health implications.