The role of angry rumination and distraction in blood pressure recovery from emotional arousal

William Gerin, Karina W. Davidson, Nicholas J.S. Christenfeld, Tanya Goyal, Joseph E. Schwartz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

181 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE: Cardiovascular recovery of prestress baseline blood pressure has been implicated as a possible additional determinant of sustained blood pressure elevation. We hypothesize that angry ruminations may slow the recovery process. METHOD: A within-subjects design was used in which resting baseline blood pressure and heart rate measurements were assessed on 60 subjects, who then took part in two anger-recall tasks. After each task, subjects sat quietly and alone during a 12-minute recovery period randomized to with or without distractions. During baseline, task, and recovery, blood pressure was continuously monitored; during recovery, subjects reported their thoughts at five fixed intervals. RESULTS: Fewer angry thoughts were reported in the distraction condition (17%) compared with no distraction (31%; p = .002); an interaction showed that this effect was largely the result of the two intervals immediately after the anger-recall task. Trait rumination interacted with distraction condition such that high ruminators in the no-distraction condition evidenced the poorest blood pressure recovery, assessed as area under the curve (p = .044 [systolic blood pressure] and p = .046 [diastolic pressure]). CONCLUSIONS: People who have a tendency to ruminate about past anger-provoking events may be at greater risk for target organ damage as a result of sustained blood pressure elevations; the effect is exacerbated when distractions are not available to interrupt the ruminative process.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)64-72
Number of pages9
JournalPsychosomatic medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2006

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Applied Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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