Lower resting cardiac autonomic balance in young adults with current major depression

Psychophysiology. 2019 Aug;56(8):e13385. doi: 10.1111/psyp.13385. Epub 2019 Apr 25.


Research on cardiac autonomic function in major depressive disorder (MDD) has predominantly examined cardiac vagal control and adopted a model of reciprocal autonomic balance. A proposed bivariate autonomic continuum uses cardiac autonomic balance (CAB) and cardiac autonomic regulation (CAR) models, derived from normalized values of respiratory sinus arrhythmia and pre-ejection period, to more adequately index patterns of autonomic control. The purpose of this study was to assess resting levels of CAB and CAR among young adults with and without a current diagnosis of major depression. One hundred forty-two young adults (n = 65 MDD, n = 77 healthy controls; 20.8 ± 2.6 years) completed a structured diagnostic interview, cardiovascular assessment, and a maximal aerobic fitness test. The findings revealed that CAB, but not CAR, significantly predicted current MDD status (OR = 0.70, 95% CI [0.53, 0.93]), an effect that remained after controlling for aerobic fitness and body mass index. Although CAB was found to be a significant predictor of current MDD status among a sample of young adults, there remained substantial variation in autonomic control that was not captured by the traditional model of reciprocal autonomic balance.

Keywords: autonomic nervous system; cardiac autonomic balance; depression; physical health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Autonomic Nervous System / physiopathology*
  • Cardiorespiratory Fitness
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / physiopathology*
  • Electrocardiography
  • Female
  • Heart / physiology*
  • Heart Rate
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Young Adult