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High Blood Pressure May Affect Social Resilience

June 19th, 2019

Going through a breakup, feeling left out, or losing a friend can be difficult, but recent research may provide a clue about why some people bounce back from these types of rejection faster than others. University of Pittsburgh researcher Tristen Inagaki, PhD, and her team recently published new findings in the journal Biological Psychology reporting that people with high blood pressure were less sensitive to social pain—defined as the unpleasant experience felt by actual or perceived damage to one’s sense of social connection or social value.

Researchers measured 317 participants’ resting blood pressure and asked them to agree or disagree with statements about social rejection. Participants with high blood pressure tended to disagree with statements that expressed sensitivity to social rejection, such as “I am very sensitive to any signs that a person might not want to talk to me,” or “I sometimes take criticism too hard.”

Research has previously shown that higher resting blood pressure is related to lower physical pain sensitivity, and these new findings suggest that the human body may experience physical and social pain in biologically similar ways. Although more research is needed to better understand this connection, the authors state that “The results add to an existing body of evidence that suggests that physical and social pain might share biological substrates and extends this evidence base to the cardiovascular system.”

Learn more about Heart and Circulation studies on Pitt+Me.