Bad news for relentless power-seekers the likes of Frank Underwood on House of Cards: Climbing the ladder of social status through aggressive, competitive striving might shorten your life as a result of increased vulnerability to cardiovascular disease. That's according to new research by psychologist Timothy W. Smith and colleagues at the University of Utah. And good news for successful types who are friendlier: Attaining higher social status as the result of prestige and freely given respect may have protective effects, the researchers found. Smith presented the findings at the annual meeting of the American Psychosomatic Society this week in Savannah, GA.

The Utah researchers conducted four studies to gauge the health effects of the hostile-dominant personality style compared with the warm-dominant style. In surveys with 500 undergraduate volunteers, hostile-dominant types reported greater hostility and interpersonal stress. Warm-dominant types tended to rank themselves as higher in social status. Both styles were associated with a higher personal sense of power. The psychologists also monitored the blood pressure of 180 undergraduates as they reacted to stressful conversations with others who were scripted to act deferentially or dominantly. Hostile-dominant types experienced significant increases in blood pressure when interacting with a dominant partner, but not with a deferential one.


Previous studies have found that increased blood pressure reactivity to stress puts people at risk for cardiovascular disease.

Kemo D. 7

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