Type A, Race, Anger, Forgiveness, Plus Stroke, HRT, and Hydralazine - The Bad, the Good, and the To-Be-Avoided

November 14, 2003

In This Article

Forgiving Nature Lowers Blood Pressure

People who have a forgiving nature and are able to forgive a perceived offender after an interpersonal conflict have lower blood pressure levels, with consequent cardiovascular benefits, according to the results of a study reported in the October issue of the Journal of Behavioral Medicine.[8]

Researchers from the Department of Psychology at the University of Tennessee (Knoxville) conducted 2 interviews with 108 college students, during which they were asked to recall an incident when they felt "deeply hurt or betrayed" by someone close to them -- on one occasion a close friend/partner, relative, or romantic partner, and on the other occasion a parent or primary caregiver. Participants completed a number of questionnaires measuring state forgiveness, forgiving personality, stress, hostility, empathy, and physical symptoms. State forgiveness was assessed by the Acts of Forgiveness Scale, which addresses feelings about a specific offense and offender (increasing forgiveness), and the Transgression-related Interpersonal Motivations Inventory (TRIM), a scale that rates feelings of revenge and avoidance toward the offender (decreasing forgiveness). Trait forgiveness was measured by the Forgiving Personality Inventory, which rates the behavioral traits of participants on a 5-point scale. Before and during the interviews and during the recovery periods, repeated measures of blood pressure, heart rate, forehead EMG, and skin conductance were taken.

Participants with higher trait forgiveness were found to have lower blood pressure, particularly DBP. Higher state forgiveness, whether assessed by the Acts of Forgiveness Scale or TRIM, was also associated with lower levels of blood pressure, particular DBP, as well as lower heart rate and rate pressure product. The researchers point out that in keeping with the senses of trait and state forgiveness, forgiveness as a personality construct was more strongly linked to background levels of blood pressure (DBP), while forgiveness as an action or emotion was more strongly linked to sympathetic input to the heart (rate pressure product). Trait forgiveness was also associated with increased blood pressure recovery after stress.

Interestingly, the beneficial effects associated with state forgiveness were found mainly during the interview about the parent/caregiver and compared with the interview about the friend/partner. This suggests that the negative effects of forgiveness may be more physiologically important in older people who are in long-term, permanent relationships.

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