Religious Orientation, Aging, and Blood Pressure Reactivity to Interpersonal and Cognitive Stressors

Ann Behav Med. 2004 Dec;28(3):171-8. doi: 10.1207/s15324796abm2803_5.


Background: Research on religion and health suggests general health benefits for those who are more religiously involved. Particular aspects of religiosity that may influence this finding, however, have not been sufficiently investigated.

Purpose: This study was designed to explore the relationship between religious orientation (intrinsic, extrinsic) and blood pressure reactivity among older (over 60 years) and younger (18-24 years) adults exposed to two qualitatively different laboratory stressors (cognitive, interpersonal).

Methods: Participants were categorized as exhibiting either a predominantly intrinsic or extrinsic religious orientation based on scores on the Religious Orientation Scale. They were subsequently exposed (in counterbalanced order) to two laboratory stressors that varied in terms of whether an interpersonal confrontation was involved. Measures of blood pressure were obtained at baseline and during stressor presentation.

Results: Analyses indicated that older extrinsically religious individuals demonstrated exaggerated reactivity compared to younger participants and older intrinsically religious individuals. Older intrinsically religious participants did not differ from younger persons. Similar results were found for analysis of baseline data. Extrinsic participants had greater reactivity during the interpersonal confrontation condition than did intrinsic individuals.

Conclusions: These findings suggest that religious orientation may be an important variable to study regarding cardiovascular reactivity in, particularly, older adults.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aging*
  • Blood Pressure*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / epidemiology
  • Hypertension / psychology
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Religion and Medicine*
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology
  • Utah / epidemiology