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Stress. 2018 Aug 7:1-8. doi: 10.1080/10253890.2018.1490724. [Epub ahead of print]

Emotion regulation moderates the association between chronic stress and cardiovascular disease risk in humans: a cross-sectional study.

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a Section of General Internal Medicine , Yale School of Medicine , New Haven , CT , USA.
b Department of Pediatrics , University of Cincinnati College of Medicine , Cincinnati , OH , USA.
c Division of Critical Care Medicine, Department of Pediatrics , Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center , Cincinnati , OH , USA.
d Yale Stress Center and Departments of Psychiatry , Neuroscience and Child Study, Yale School of Medicine , New Haven , CT , USA.


Chronic stress is a risk factor for incident cardiovascular (CV) disease. Emotion regulation is the ability to modulate one's state or behavior in response to a given situation or stressor, and may mitigate the effect of chronic stress on CV disease risk. Data from a cohort of 754 community-dwelling young to middle-aged adults who were assessed between 2007 and 2012 on stress, emotion regulation, and CV risk measures were used to test the hypothesis that emotion regulation mitigates the effect of chronic stress on CV risk. Emotion regulation was measured using the Difficulties in Emotion Regulation Scale (DERS). We created a composite stress score using data from the Cumulative Adversity Interview and the Perceived Stress Scale. Our outcomes included blood pressure, body mass index, and insulin resistance separately and combined into a composite CV risk score. Covariates included age, sex, race, years of education, and smoking status. We used multivariable logistic regression to evaluate associations between stress measures and CV risk among participants and the impact of emotion regulation (DERS scores) on this association. We found that composite stress interacted significantly with the DERS score to affect CV risk (p = .007). A median split of the DERS scores indicated that CV risk was associated with the composite stress score in the fully adjusted model (ß = 0.206; p = .005) among participants with low emotion regulation, but not among those with high emotion regulation (ß = 0.048; p = .59). Chronic stress was associated with CV risk only among participants with poor emotion regulation. Emotion regulation is a teachable skill, and may play a role in preventing CV disease. Lay summary Emotion regulation is the ability to modify one's reaction to a negative or stressful event, and is a teachable skill. Effective emotion regulation dampens the negative effect of chronic stress on the body, which may reduce risk for cardiovascular disease.


CV disease risk; Emotional intelligence; chronic stress; emotion regulation; primary prevention; psychological stress

[Available on 2020-02-07]

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