1 Section of Social Medicine, Department of Public Health, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, Københavns Universitet2 Boston University, Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, 64 Cummington Mall, 02215 Boston, MA, USA.3 University College London, Department of Epidemiology & Public Health, 1-19 Torrington Place, WC1E 6BT London, UK.4 Institute for Social and Economic Research, University of Essex, Wivenhoe Park, CO4 3SQ Colchester, UK.5 Section of Social Medicine, Department of Public Health, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, Københavns Universitet
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.