There is information indicating that the variations induced by the menstrual cycle may influence the capacity of young women to respond to stress. The physiological response to stress changes across the stages of the lifespan; however, in spite of the great increase in life expectancy, the way women react after menopause, a period characterized by a dramatic decline in sex hormones, has not been sufficiently studied. The main objective of the study was to examine the capacity to respond to and recover from an acute social stressor in post-menopausal women compared to young women. The second objective was to investigate the consequences of behavior on the self-regulatory systems. We measured behavior, cortisol, and heart rate during a speaking task in front of a committee in sixty-seven women: 36 post-menopausal and 31 pre-menopausal (follicular group n = 14; luteal group n = 17). No differences in heart rate reactivity between three groups were found. Post-menopausal women showed less cortisol reactivity to stress; they also displayed a higher percentage of Gestures during the speaking task, reflecting a clearer pattern of active coping compared to the young women. In post-menopausal women, behaviors that reflect active coping strategies were related to better autonomic regulation. By contrast, in pre-menopausal women, cortisol changes seemed to be modulated by passive and reactive behaviors such as Submission and Assertion. These results emphasize the importance of considering age and Hormonal Status in coping processes, including reactivity and recovery from stressful situations.
The influence of coping strategies and behavior on the physiological response to social stress in women: The role of age and menstrual cycle phase / Villada, Carolina; Espin, Laura; Hidalgo, Vanesa; Rubagotti, Sara; Sgoifo, Andrea; Salvador, Alicia. - In: PHYSIOLOGY & BEHAVIOR. - ISSN 0031-9384. - 170:(2017), pp. 37-46. [10.1016/j.physbeh.2016.12.011]