Cardiovascular and immune responses to acute psychological stress in young and old women: A meta-analysis

Robert J. Benschop, Rinie Geenen*, Paul J. Mills, Bruce D. Naliboff, Janice K. Kiecolt-Glaser, Tracy B. Herbert, Gieta Van Der Pompe, Gregory E. Miller, Karen A. Matthews, Guido L R Godaert, Stephanie L. Gilmore, Ronald Glaser, Cobi J. Heijnen, Joel M. Dopp, Johannes W J Bijlsma, George F. Solomon, John T. Cacioppo

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

91 Scopus citations


Objective: To describe the relationships between cardiovascular and natural killer (NK) cell number changes on acute psychological stress in women. Method: Data from eight different studies were analyzed. A total of 128 healthy female subjects, 85 younger (18-45 years) and 43 older (49-87 years), had been subjected to a speech stressor (N = 80) or a mental effort stressor (N = 48), mental arithmetic, or the Stroop test. Correlations between changes in NK cell numbers, systolic (SBP) and diastolic (DBP) blood pressure, and heart rate (HR) were computed. Meta-analysis programs were used to study correlations across studies and to examine whether correlations differed with stressors or age. Results: In all studies, significant increases over baseline were observed for each variable. Across studies, the mean weighted r between changes in HR, DBP, and SBP was medium (r(w) = .25) to large (r(w) = .64). A medium to large average correlation between HR and NK changes (r(w) = .37) was observed, whereas average correlations of changes in NK cell numbers with blood pressure changes were small to medium (r(w) ≤ .23). Correlations between changes in NK cell numbers and cardiovascular variables were homogeneous across studies, whereas mutual correlations between cardiovascular variables were heterogeneous. One moderator variable showed itself: correlations between HR and DBP reactions were larger in studies with older than younger subjects. Conclusion: NK cell changes and HR responses induced by acute stress in women are regulated, to some extent, by the same mechanisms. Neither the type of stressor nor age seem to be very important when considering correlations between NK cell and cardiovascular changes. This study integrates information about NK cell and cardiovascular responses in women that can be used as reference material in future studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)290-296
Number of pages7
JournalPsychosomatic medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1998


  • Cardiovascular
  • Immune system
  • Natural killer cells
  • Psychological stress
  • Women

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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