Reducing cardiovascular stress with positive self- stereotypes of aging

Becca R. Levy, Jeffrey M. Hausdorff, Rebecca Hencke, Jeanne Y. Wei

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We examined whether aging self-stereotypes, or older individuals' beliefs about elderly people, can influence cardiovascular function. Older individuals were subliminally exposed to either positive or negative aging stereotypes. Then all participants faced mathematical and verbal challenges. Those exposed to the negative aging stereotypes demonstrated a heightened cardiovascular response to stress, measured by systolic blood pressure, diastolic blood pressure, and heart rate, compared with those exposed to positive aging stereotypes. The aging stereotypes appeared to influence the outcome variable of skin conductance in the same way. It appears that the negative aging stereotypes acted as direct stressors, whereas the positive aging stereotypes reduced cardiovascular stress. These findings indicate that negative aging stereotypes may contribute to adverse health outcomes in elderly persons without their awareness. The results also suggest that positive aging stereotypes could be used in interventions to reduce cardiovascular stress.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)P205-P213
JournalJournals of Gerontology - Series B Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2000
Externally publishedYes


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