Putting the vital in vitality: establishing the link between the phenomenological experience of vitality and patterns of blood pressure in the laboratory and daily life
Tintzman, Courtney Suzanne
MetadataShow full item record
Historically, much attention has been paid to the potentially harmful effects of unhealthy behaviors and poorly regulated emotion on cardiovascular health, but a growing area of research focuses on whether positive psychological states, such as vitality, may also affect cardiovascular risk. Vitality--characterized by feelings of aliveness and energy--has been theorized to reduce risk for development of cardiovascular disease by a) directly regulating biological systems, and indirectly, by regulating negative emotional states that may lead to poor physiological responses. Existing literature focuses on prospective cardiovascular outcomes, but the current studies examine ways in which vitality may relate to cardiovascular health prior to development of cardiovascular disease. The current project extends existing literature by assessing the relationship between vitality and blood pressure, an informative, short-term indicator of cardiovascular health. Two studies hypothesized that vitality would provide more effective regulation of blood pressure in two different contexts. Study I (N = 126) examined the hypothesized relationship between vitality and blood pressure within the context of a laboratory stress paradigm. Vitality was measured upon entrance to the laboratory, and blood pressure was measured before, during, and after a speech task. Following a model proposed by Kuzbansky and Thurston (2007), vitality was hypothesized to directly, and also 'indirectly' through the reduction of cognitive and somatic anxiety about the stress task, predict more highly regulated reactivity and faster recovery from a psychosocial stressor. Results failed to support predictions: vitality did not predict patterns of blood pressure reactivity and recovery to a stressor, directly nor indirectly. Study II (N = 100) utilized ecological momentary assessment to investigate the hypothesized relationship between vitality and blood pressure in daily life. Participants completed daily measures of vitality and perceived stress, and ambulatory blood pressure was captured every four hours. In support of the hypotheses, vitality and perceived stress emerged as a significant predictors of blood pressure across time, suggesting that vitality may directly and indirectly affect blood pressure. These findings add to a growing area of research that suggest vitality as an important factor in cardiovascular health. Limitations and implications for future research are discussed.