Vagally-mediated heart rate variability and indices of well-being: Results of a nationally representative study

Health Psychol. 2017 Jan;36(1):73-81. doi: 10.1037/hea0000397. Epub 2016 Aug 29.


Objective: High frequency (HF) heart rate variability (HRV) has long been accepted as an index of cardiac vagal control. Recent studies report relationships between HF-HRV and indices of positive and negative affect, personality traits and well-being but these studies generally are based on small and selective samples.

Method: These relationships were examined using data from 967 participants in the second Midlife in the U.S. (MIDUS II) study. Participants completed survey questionnaires on well-being and affect. HF-HRV was measured at rest. A hierarchical series of regression analyses examined relationships between these various indices and HF-HRV before and after adjustment for relevant demographic and biomedical factors.

Results: Significant inverse relationships were found only between indices of negative affect and HF-HRV. Relationships between indices of psychological and hedonic well-being and positive affect failed to reach significance.

Conclusions: These findings raise questions about relationships between cardiac parasympathetic modulation, emotion regulation, and indices of well-being. (PsycINFO Database Record

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cohort Studies
  • Databases, Factual / trends
  • Electrocardiography / trends
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Heart Rate / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Surveys and Questionnaires*
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Vagus Nerve / physiology*