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Negative affective tendencies predict precursors of metabolic syndrome in physically healthy young women Blackwell, Ekin

Abstract

Accumulating evidence indicates that negative affect (NA) and positive affect (PA) are linked to a variety of physical health outcomes. However, there are a number of significant gaps in this literature. First of all, many commonly employed instruments assess broad psychological constructs rather than basic mood states. Second, these measures do not distinguish between valence and activation, two theoretically important dimensions of affect. This makes it difficult to sort out which key ingredients are involved in the affect and health connection. Third, with all the studies of medical patients, it is not evident whether moods matter causally or if they are confounded with disease severity. Finally, the biological mechanisms through which different moods might influence health are largely unknown. A critical question is whether NA and PA work through different pathways. The current research project was designed to help address these problems. The study employed a circumplex model of affect to track patterns of mood in physically healthy young women over the course of 6 months. Biological measures representing preclinical markers of metabolic disease were obtained at the end of this period. This methodology enabled us to examine the independent and joint contributions of different affective tendencies, varying on dimensions of valence and activation, to biological mechanisms involved in disease development. The findings revealed that the tendency to experience chronic negative emotions, regardless of their associated level of activation, predicted less optimal metabolic symptoms. In contrast, positive affective tendencies had neither a favorable nor detrimental effect on these outcomes. However, we found no evidence that NA and PA have unique biological correlates. The implications of these findings for models of emotion and health are discussed, and several potential avenues for future research are suggested.

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