Chronic psychosocial factors and acute physiological responses to laboratory-induced stress in healthy populations: a quantitative review of 30 years of investigations

Psychol Bull. 2008 Nov;134(6):829-85. doi: 10.1037/a0013342.


This meta-analysis included 729 studies from 161 articles investigating how acute stress responsivity (including stress reactivity and recovery of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal [HPA] axis, autonomic, and cardiovascular systems) changes with various chronic psychosocial exposures (job stress; general life stress; depression or hopelessness; anxiety, neuroticism, or negative affect; hostility, aggression, or Type-A behavior; fatigue, burnout, or exhaustion; positive psychological states or traits) in healthy populations. In either the overall meta-analysis or the methodologically strong subanalysis, positive psychological states or traits were associated with reduced HPA reactivity. Hostility, aggression, or Type-A behavior was associated with increased cardiovascular (heart rate or blood pressure) reactivity, whereas anxiety, neuroticism, or negative affect was associated with decreased cardiovascular reactivity. General life stress and anxiety, neuroticism, or negative affect were associated with poorer cardiovascular recovery. However, regarding the sympathetic nervous system and parasympathetic nervous system, there were no associations between the chronic psychosocial factors and stress reactivity or recovery. The results largely reflect an integrated stress response pattern of hypo- or hyperactivity depending on the specific nature of the psychosocial background.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Affect*
  • Blood Pressure / physiology
  • Health Status*
  • Heart Rate / physiology
  • Humans
  • Hypothalamo-Hypophyseal System / physiology*
  • Laboratories
  • Life Change Events
  • Pituitary-Adrenal System / physiology*
  • Psychology
  • Psychophysiology
  • Stress, Physiological*
  • Type A Personality