jay campisi

The most interesting results are often the most unexpected.

Associate professor Jay Campisi and his team of Regis biology faculty and students learned that firsthand this spring, through a first-of-its-kind study about how men and women respond to stress at work.

Published in May in the “International Journal on the Biology of Stress,” the study found that in response to stress within a tested work setting, women’s maximum heart rates were approximately 10 percent higher than those of men.

The research team believes this is the first study to explore heart rate response in a real work setting through non-invasive methods — and the first to show women’s different response to work stress (compared to men) during a normal job shift, as measured by heart rate.

The study examined 23 employees at the Apple Store in Boulder. The employees, who held various jobs, wore Apple Watches that measured their heart rates during three typical work shifts. The researchers tested each subject’s heart rate according to his or her physical fitness and biological sex.

Campisi and his team expected a significant difference in the employees’ heart rates based on each person’s fitness. However, the only significant difference they found was based on biological sex. Beyond experiencing a higher maximum heart rate than men, women also experienced a greater change in heart rate.

“That result plays into new questions,” said Campisi, the department chair. “Is the difference in response due to biological factors alone or are there other interacting factors responsible for this effect?”

The study originated in a graduate-level physiology course taught by Campisi and Bethany Lucas, associate professor of biology. Both contributed to the study along with Regis graduate students Stella Grayson, Halimah Hamidu, Andrew Han, Ajay Varghese and Sandra No.

The study provides a positive sign that wearable devices may be useful for research studies in non- laboratory settings, Campisi noted.

“It doesn’t require taking blood, doesn’t require going to a doctor, doesn’t require doing anything out of the ordinary, since we can just measure you during your normal day,” he said.