Social Integration Prospectively Predicts Changes in Heart Rate Variability Among Individuals Undergoing Migration Stress

Ann Behav Med. 2015 Apr;49(2):230-8. doi: 10.1007/s12160-014-9650-7.


Background: Poor social integration increases risk for poor health. The psychobiological pathways underlying this effect are not well-understood.

Purpose: This study utilized a migration stress model to prospectively investigate the impact of social integration on change in high-frequency heart rate variability (HF-HRV), a marker of autonomic functioning.

Methods: Sixty new international students were recruited shortly after their arrival in the host country and assessed 2 and 5 months later. At each assessment period, participants provided information on social integration and loneliness and had their resting HF-HRV evaluated.

Results: There was an overall decrease in HF-HRV over time. The magnitude of the within-person and between-person effects of social integration on HRV increased over time, such that greater social integration was associated with higher HF-HRV at later follow-ups.

Conclusions: These results suggest that altered autonomic functioning might represent a key pathway linking social integration to health outcomes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Autonomic Nervous System / physiopathology*
  • Emigrants and Immigrants / psychology*
  • Emigration and Immigration
  • Female
  • Heart Rate / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Respiratory Rate / physiology
  • Social Isolation / psychology*
  • Stress, Psychological / physiopathology*
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology
  • Young Adult