Acute autonomic effects of experimental worry and cognitive problem solving: Why worry about worry?

Bart Verkuil, Jos F. Brosschot, Thomas D. Borkovec, Julian F. Thayer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations

Abstract

Worry has been associated with adverse mental and somatic health outcomes, which have been attributed to the pathogenic physiological activity caused by worry. However, experimental evidence is scarce, and existing studies did not address whether the physiological effects of worry do actually exceed those of mere mental load during cognitive problem solving. In the present experiment, heart rate (HR) and heart rate variability (HRV) of fifty-three participants were continuously measured during induced worrying, problem solving concerning issues that were not personally relevant, and relaxation. The results showed that HR was higher and HRV lower during both worrying and problem solving than during relaxation. Differences in emotional responses did not account for these results. This suggests that mere mental load is responsible for - at least a part of - the physiological effects of worry. Consequently, long term health effects of worry might be due to prolonged mental load of worry rather than to its emotional aspects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)439-453
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Journal of Clinical and Health Psychology
Volume9
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Clinical Psychology

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