Background: It was previously shown that antidepressants are associated with diminished vagal control over the heart. Longitudinal studies are needed to test the causality of this association further.
Methods: Longitudinal data were obtained in the Netherlands Study of Depression and Anxiety. At baseline and at 2-year follow-up, heart rate and cardiac vagal control as indexed by respiratory sinus arrhythmia were measured in 2114 subjects (mean age = 42.0 years; 66.2% female), who either used antidepressants at one or two time points (n = 603) or did not use antidepressants at any time point (n = 1511). Linear mixed-model analyses were conducted to compare changes in respiratory sinus arrhythmia and heart rate over time across antidepressant-naive subjects, subjects who started using an antidepressant during follow-up, subjects who stopped using an antidepressant, and persistent antidepressant users. Analyses were adjusted for demographics, health, and lifestyle factors.
Results: Compared with continuous nonusers, subjects who started the use of a tricyclic antidepressant or a serotonergic and noradrenergic antidepressant showed a significantly greater increase in heart rate and a decrease of respiratory sinus arrhythmia at 2 years. Subjects who started the use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors also showed a decrease in respiratory sinus arrhythmia, but their heart rate did not increase. Discontinuing antidepressants systematically caused opposite effects; levels returned in the direction of those observed among nonusers.
Conclusions: These 2-year longitudinal results indicate that all antidepressants cause a decrease in cardiac vagal control. After discontinuing antidepressants, autonomic function recovers, suggesting that the unfavorable effects are (partly) reversible.
Copyright © 2010 Society of Biological Psychiatry. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.