Social Support and Cardiovascular Responses to Stress among Chinese Immigrants
Lee, Yuen Shan Christine
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Background. Research has shown that social support attenuates cardiovascular reactivity (CVR) to stressful circumstances. However, this hypothesis has not been tested in an immigrant population. The current study assessed the effects of various types of social support on cardiovascular responses to stress among Chinese immigrants in the New York City area. Method. First generation Chinese immigrants (N = 150; Mean Age = 53 years old; 86 Females, Average Length of Stay in the United States = 20 years) were recruited from the New York Downtown Hospital. Following the study description and informed consent procedures, participants completed questionnaires assessing their levels of social support. Following an 8-minute adaptation period, participants recalled a stress-provoking event related to their immigration experience in a semi-structured 8-minute interview. Recovery was monitored for 20 minutes and participants were debriefed. Blood pressure and heart rate were monitored at 2-minute intervals during baseline and recovery, and 1 minute intervals during the interview. Result. Hierarchical multiple regression analysis revealed that social network type was associated with larger SBP reactivity changes. Social network size was positively predictive of SBP reactivity changes. Perceived emotional support was related to larger SBP at baseline. Instrumental support seeking was associated with SBP and DBP reactivity. Perceived instrumental support and emotional support seeking were not associated with any cardiovascular measures. Finally, the interaction between instrumental support seeking and interdependent self-construal was significantly associated with DBP reactivity and recovery. Conclusion. Perceived and enactment of social support appears not to buffer cardiovascular responses to stress among Chinese immigrants. This may be related to the Chinese value of collectivism and interdependence. Still, the purpose of this study was not to illustrate that Chinese immigrants do not need social support. Indeed, the result indicated that Chinese immigrants who still upheld more interdependent self-construal and solicited instrumental support had faster recovery than those who didn't solicit support. Future studies should examine culturally-appropriate concepts of social support to determine whether they will buffer cardiovascular responses to stress among Chinese immigrants.