Stress motivates many massage clients to receive massage therapy. And massage, both alone and combined with aromatherapy, has been shown to decrease stress, increase relaxation and lower blood pressure.

New research shows males and females respond differently to stress, especially when the trait of defensiveness is factored in.

“Our findings suggest that women who are more defensive are at increased cardiovascular risk, whereas low defensiveness appears to damage the health of older men,” says Bianca D’Antono, a professor at the Université de Montréal Department of Psychiatry and a Montreal Heart Institute researcher.

Defensiveness is a trait characterized by avoidance, denial or repression of information perceived as threatening. In women, a strong defensive reaction to judgment from others or a threat to self-esteem will result in high blood pressure and heart rate. Contrarily, older men with low defensive reactions have a higher cardiovascular rates.

The study was conducted on 81 healthy working men and 118 women. According to Dr. Jean-Claude Tardif a Université de Montréal professor and Montreal Heart Institute researcher, the physiological response to stress in women and older men is linked to this desire of maintaining self-esteem and securing social bonds.

The research team cautions, however, that more studies are needed to evaluate the long-term effects of defensiveness and its association to stress response patterns in disease development.

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