Race differences in cardiovascular and cortisol responses to an interpersonal challenge in women who are family caregivers

Sara Wilcox, Melissa Bopp, Dawn K. Wilson, Laura J. Fulk, Gregory A. Hand

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Objectives: To examine race differences in psychosocial and psychophysiological responses to family caregiving. Design: Participants completed paper-and-pencil surveys and were exposed to a laboratory-based interpersonal challenge that included a period of rest, an interpersonal challenge, and a period of recovery. Setting: A university research laboratory. Participants: Sixteen Caucasian and 12 African-American postmenopausal (64±10 years) women who were caregivers to a family member with dementia. Measures: Psychosocial functioning included self-reported perceived stress, caregiver burden, social support, and caregiving meaning. Systolic and diastolic blood pressure (SBP, DBP) and heart rate (HR) were measured every two minutes during the rest, challenge, and recovery. Salivary cortisol was measured at rest and 15-minutes post-challenge. Results: There was a Race × Task interaction for SBP and HR but not DBP reactivity. African-American women showed greater reactivity than Caucasian women. The magnitude of this interaction was large. African-American women also reported greater caregiving from meaning than Caucasian women. In contrast, significantly more African Americans (58%) than Caucasians (14%) showed cortisol reactivity from rest to 15-minutes post-challenge. Conclusions: The differential pattern of physiologic responses is consistent with studies outside of the caregiving literature, and suggests that caregiving may he perceived as more effortful among Caucasian women and less controllable among African-American women.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)17-24
Number of pages8
JournalEthnicity and Disease
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2005

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Epidemiology


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