The findings will be presented at the Conference on Forgiveness in Atlanta October 24-25. To register, log on to the Press Room at http://Forgiving.
Physiological correlates of forgiveness: Findings from a radically and socio-economically diverse sample of community residents.
1. Interesting associations between forgiveness and physiological outcomes exist but careful attention should be paid to sample characteristics
2. Forgiveness is associated with lower resting diastolic blood pressure
3. Forgiveness is associated with lower resting diastolic blood pressure and lower levels of cortisol in black individuals of low socio-econokic status
The study of forgiveness and health is beginning to receive attention but two limitations exist in the literature. First, the overwhelming majority of samples continue to be drawn from college student populations. There is little diversity in terms of race, socio-economic status, and gender. Second, only a few studies have attempted to examine forgiveness and physiological markers of cardiovascular and endocrine system function. The purpose of the present investigation was to examine forgiveness and blood pressure and cortisol levels in a racially and socio-economically diverse sample of community residents.
Quota sampling was used to recruit 98 participants from low and moderate income neighborhoods from Ypsilanti, Michigan with equal numbers of blacks and whites and males and females. Participants were 25-55 years of age (M = 40.2).
Forgiveness was assessed using a three-item forgiveness subscale of the Brief Multidimensional Measure of Religiousness/Spirituality. This subscale contains two items assessing forgiveness of oneself and others and one item assessing feeling forgiven by God. The total score and each individual item are examined in the analyses. Physiological markers of cardiovascular and endocrine system function included: 1) resting systolic and diastolic blood pressure, 2) pulse, and 3) salivary cortisol. Measures were taken once a week for three weeks.
Results and Discussion
The association between forgiveness and physiology was complex. First, forgiveness total score was associated with lower resting diastolic blood pressure in the total sample. This was due in large part to marginal associations between resting diastolic blood pressure and items tapping forgiveness of oneself and others. Second, when examining only low SES blacks, forgiveness total score and the forgiven others item were significantly associated with lower resting diastolic blood pressure and lower cortisol at moderate to large effect sizes (rs -.34 to -.56). Toussaint is Assistant Professor, Idaho State University (2001-present) Psychology Department