Determinants and correlates of physiological stress reactivity

In a series of studies, we examined the determinants and correlates of physiological stress reactivity. The cognitive evaluation of a stressor not only determines the amount of cortisol that is being released in response to stress, but also the stress reactivity of intermediary-biological cardiovascular risk factors. While work-related stress such as role stress and perfectionism is associated with increased cortisol reactivity, high levels of social support and better stress management skills result in reduced coagulant activity both before and after a stressful event. In addition to identifying associations with psychological factors, we were also able to demonstrate correlations with classic cardiovascular risk factors such as age and excessive weight on the one hand, and with physical activity as a protective factor on the other.


Psychological factors

Wirtz, P.H., Ehlert, U., Kottwitz, M., LaMarca, R., Semmer, N. (2013). Occupational role stress is associated with higher cortisol reactivity to stress. J Occup Health Psychol 18(2):121-31. [Link]

Wirtz, P.H., Thomas, L., Domes, G., Penedo, F.J., Ehlert, U. & Nussbeck F.W. (2013). Psychoendocrine validation of a short measure for assessment of perceived stress management skills in different non-clinical populations. Psychoneuroendocrinology 38(4):572-86. [Link]

Wirtz, P.H., Redwine, L.S., Ehlert, U. & Von Känel R. (2009). Independent association between lower level of social support and higher coagulation activity before and after acute psychosocial stress. Psychosomatic Medicine 71(1):30-7. [Link]

Nierop, A., Wirtz, P.H., Bratsikas, A., Zimmermann, R. & Ehlert, U. (2008). Stress-Buffering Effects of Psychosocial Resources on Physiological and Psychological Stress Response in Pregnant Women. Biol Psychol 78:261-168. [Link]

Wirtz, P.H., Elsenbruch, S., Emini, L., Ruedisueli, K., Groessbauer, S. & Ehlert, U. (2007). Perfectionism and the Cortisol Response to Psychosocial Stress In Men. Psychosom Med 69:249-255. [Link]

Classic risk factors for cardiovascular diseases

Kuebler, U., Linnebank, M., Semmler, A., Stoffel-Wagner, B., La Marca, R., Ehlert, U. & Wirtz, P.H. (2013). Plasma homocysteine levels increase following stress in older but not younger men. Psychoneuroendocrinology 38(8):1381-1387. [Link]

Rimmele, U., Seiler, R., Marti, B., Wirtz, P.H., Ehlert, U. & Heinrichs, M. (2009). The level of physical activity affects adrenal and cardiovascular reactivity to and recovery from psychosocial stress. Psychoneuroendocrinology 34:190-198. [Link]

Wirtz, P.H., Ehlert, U., Emini, L. & Suter, T. (2008). Higher body mass index (BMI) is associated with reduced glucocorticoid inhibition of inflammatory cytokine production following acute psychosocial stress in men. Psychoneuroendocrinology 33:1102-1110. [Link]

Wirtz, P.H., Redwine, L.S., Baertschi, C., Spillmann, M., Ehlert, U. & Von Känel R. (2008). Coagulation activity before and after acute psychosocial stress increases with age. Psychosom Med 70:476-481. [Link]