Annals of Behavioral Medicine

, Volume 18, Issue 4, pp 246–254

Defensive hostility, gender and cardiovascular levels and responses to stress

  • Karin F. Helmers
  • David S. Krantz
Empirical Research


Prior studies have demonstrated inconsistent relationships between the trait of hostility and cardiovascular responses to stress. To examine the hypothesis that only a subset of hostile subjects demonstrates greater cardiovascular responses to stress, we assessed relationships among hostility, defensiveness, and cardiovascular responses to stress in 33 healthy men and 34 healthy women. Stressors used were math and speech tasks. Median splits on Cook-medley Hostility Inventory (Ho) and defensiveness [Marlowe-Crowne Social Desirability scale (MC)] classified subjects into four groups: (a) Defensive Hostile (DH-high Ho and MC), (b) Low Hostile (LH-low Ho and MC), (c) High Hostile (HH-high Ho, low MC), and (d) Defensive (Def-low Ho, high MC). Results indicate that Defensive Hostility is differentially related to cardiovascular levels in men and women. DH men exhibited greater systolic blood pressure (SBP) levels than LH, Def, and HH men. Analyses of diastolic blood pressures (DBPs) suggested a trend that LH and DH men demonstrated greater DBP levels than Def and HH men. In contrast, DH women were indistinguishable from HH and Def women with respect to blood pressure, and LH women demonstrated the lowest SBP and DBP levels. There were no personality differences in cardiovascular change scores to stress. Gender differences for affect were observed which may mediate the cardiovascular responses. These data suggest that the personality trait of Defensive Hostility may provide significant associations with blood pressure levels and coronary disease associations with blood pressure levels and coronary disease in studies that do not find associations using hostility alone.


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Copyright information

© The Society of Behavioral Medicine 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Karin F. Helmers
    • 1
  • David S. Krantz
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Exercise and Health ScienceYork UniversityNorth YorkCanada
  2. 2.Uniformed Services University of the Health SciencesBethesdaUSA

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