We examined the role of social support in moderating cardiovascular reactivity to behavioral stress. Fifty female students performed a stressful math task while alone or in the presence of a close female friend. The friend-present condition was either high or low in evaluation potential. Subjects in the non-evaluative friend-present condition showed reduced systolic blood pressure reactivity compared to those alone during the task. Subjects in the evaluative friend-present condition did not differ from the others on any cardiovascular measure. Perceived closeness to the friend and length of the friendship positively correlated with size of the systolic blood pressure reduction in subjects assigned to friend-present conditions, regardless of evaluation condition. Simultaneous monitoring of the friends' cardiovascular activity revealed that the non-evaluative friends showed decreasing blood pressure during the task, whereas the evaluative friends did not. The findings suggest that the measurable benefit of social support may require protocols with minimal or no element of evaluation.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Social Psychology
- Clinical Psychology