The influence of happiness, anger, and anxiety on the blood pressure of borderline hypertensives

G. D. James, L. S. Yee, G. A. Harshfield, S. G. Blank, T. G. Pickering

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

127 Scopus citations


Differences in blood pressure associated with reported happiness, anger, and anxiety are examined among 90 borderline hypertensives during 24-hr blood pressure monitoring. There were 1152 individual ambulatory blood pressure readings for which subjects classified their emotional state as happy (n = 628), angry (n = 67), or anxious (n = 457) on scales from one (low) to ten (high). Pressures were transformed to z-scores using the subject's 24-hr mean and standard deviation to assess relative elevation during reported emotional arousal. The results show that emotional arousal significantly increases systolic and diastolic pressure (p < 0.00001), an effect independent of posture and location of subject during measurement (at work, home, or elsewhere). On average, pressures during reported angry or anxious states were higher than those during a happy state (p < 0.01). Examination of arousal intensity showed that scores on the happiness scale were inversely related to systolic pressure (p < 0.01) whereas the degree of anxiety was positively associated with diastolic pressure (p < 0.02). Emotional effects were also related to the degree of individual daily pressure variation such that the greater the variability, the larger the blood pressure change assocatied with the emotions. The results suggest that happiness, anger, and anxiety increase blood pressure to differing degrees and that emotional effects may be greater in individuals with more labile blood pressure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)502-508
Number of pages7
JournalPsychosomatic Medicine
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jan 1 1986
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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