Background: There is considerable evidence documenting associations between early life adversity, behavioral disengagement, and depression with blunted cardiovascular reactivity to acute psychological stress. However, while often examined as independent predictors, it is also likely that a combination of these factors uniquely relate to cardiovascular reactivity.
Purpose: The present study employed multivariate cluster analysis to examine if distinct combinations of these outcomes relate to cardiovascular stress reactivity.
Methods: Participants (N = 467) were predominantly female (60.6%) with a mean age of 19.30 years (SD = 0.82). Measures of early life adversity, behavioral disengagement, and depression were completed; in addition, participants had their blood pressure and heart rate monitored throughout a standardized stress testing session. Cardiovascular reactivity was calculated as the difference between mean stress and mean baseline cardiovascular values.
Results: Analyses revealed two clusters with distinct patterns of exposure to early life adversity, levels of behavioral disengagement and depression, uniquely related to cardiovascular reactivity. In unadjusted models, Cluster 1 that was characterized by greater exposure to early life adversity, higher levels of behavioral disengagement and depression, was associated with lower systolic blood pressure (SBP), diastolic blood pressure (DBP), and heart rate (HR) reactivity. Cluster 2 was characterized by reactivity values similar to the sample means. In fully adjusted models, Cluster 1 predicted heart rate reactivity to stress.
Conclusions: The present study identifies a behavioral cluster that is characteristic of a blunted heart rate reactivity profile, significantly extending the research in this area.
Keywords: Behavioral disengagement; Blunted reactivity; Cluster analysis; Depression; Early life adversity.
© The Author(s) 2022. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society of Behavioral Medicine.