ambulatory blood pressure, social-evaluative threat, psychological stress


Objective—Physiological effects of social evaluation are central in models of psychosocial influences on physical health. Experimental manipulations of evaluative threat evoke substantial cardiovascular and neuroendocrine responses in laboratory studies, but only preliminary evidence is available regarding naturally-occurring evaluative threats in daily life. In such non-experimental ambulatory studies, it is essential to distinguish effects of evaluative threat from related constructs known to alter stress, such as ability perceptions and concerns about appearance. Methods—94 married, working couples (mean age 29.2 years) completed a one-day (8am to 10pm) ambulatory blood pressure (ABP) protocol with random interval-contingent measurements using a Suntech monitor and Palm Pilot-based measures of control variables and momentary experiences of social-evaluative threat, concerns about appearance, and perceived ability. Results—In hierarchical analyses for couples and multiple measurement occasions (Proc Mixed; SAS) and controlling individual differences (BMI, age, income) and potential confounds (e.g., posture, activity), higher reports of social-evaluative threat were associated with higher concurrent SBP (estimate = .87, SE = .34) and DBP (estimate = 1.06; SE = .26), both p <.02. Effects of social-evaluative threat remained significant when perceived ability and appearance concerns were controlled. Conclusions—Naturally occurring social-evaluative threat during daily activity is associated with increased SBP and DBP. Given associations between ABP and risk of cardiovascular disease, the findings support conceptual models of threats to the social self as a potentially important influence on physical health.

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Family, Home, and Social Sciences



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