Prospective results from the Whitehall II cohort study
Previous research suggests that high levels of negative emotions may affect health. However, it is likely that the absence of an emotional response following stressful events may also be problematic. Accordingly, we investigated whether a non-linear association exists between negative emotional response to major life events and allostatic load, a multisystem indicator of physiological dysregulation. Study sample was 6764 British civil service workers from the Whitehall II cohort. Negative emotional response was assessed by self-report at baseline. Allostatic load was calculated using cardiovascular, metabolic and immune function biomarkers at three clinical follow-up examinations. A non-linear association between negative emotional response and allostatic load was observed: being at either extreme end of the distribution of negative emotional response increased the risk of physiological dysregulation. Allostatic load also increased with age, but the association between negative emotional response and allostatic load remained stable over time. These results provide evidence for a more nuanced understanding of the role of negative emotions in long-term physical health.