The results of a Canadian study show that frequent exposure to violence may affect the blood pressures (BPs) and heart rates of teens. The researchers' findings suggest that such exposure can have physiologic as well as psychological effects.
Researchers from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver studied 115 students at a public high school in St. Louis, Mo. The students ranged in age from 16 to 19 years; all were healthy, and none were taking any heart-related medications. The students were asked about their previous exposure to violence, including whether they had witnessed or experienced it. They also were asked about the lifetime frequency, proximity, and severity of the violence. Heart rate, BP, and hormone levels were measured before and after the participants performed a stress task and watched a serene nature video.
The results showed that students with previous exposure to violence had higher resting BP, heart rate, and hormone levels after the test than those who were not exposed. Researchers determined that the greater teens' exposure to violence is, the more likely they are to experience cardiovascular problems in adult life.