Gender-specific association of perceived stress and inhibited breathing pattern

Int J Behav Med. 2002;9(3):216-27. doi: 10.1207/s15327558ijbm0903_04.


Stress can potentiate the development of hypertension via inhibition of renal excretory function. One potential mediating mechanism is an inhibited breathing pattern, because hypoventilation can decrease renal sodium excretion acutely via effects on pCO2 and acid-base balance. Large individual differences in resting breathing patterns have been well-documented, with some individuals maintaining slow frequency and high pCO2. Whether this breathing pattern is related to chronic stress has not been investigated. This study reports that high perceived stress over the past month was associated with significantly lower frequency breathing at rest, independently of age, race, or body mass index. This finding was more marked in women than in men. In addition, slow breathing frequency was independently associated with higher resting end tidal CO2 in both men and women. This is the first known report of an association of sustained stress with an inhibited breathing pattern in humans, and points to a pathway by which chronic stress might contribute to the development of hypertension, especially in women.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Blood Pressure
  • Carbon Dioxide / analysis
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / blood*
  • Inhibition, Psychological*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Respiration*
  • Sex Factors
  • Stress, Psychological / physiopathology*
  • Tidal Volume


  • Carbon Dioxide