Exploring the relationship between geomagnetic activity and human heart rate variability

Eur J Appl Physiol. 2020 Jun;120(6):1371-1381. doi: 10.1007/s00421-020-04369-7. Epub 2020 Apr 18.


Purpose: Both geomagnetic and solar activity fluctuate over time and have been proposed to affect human physiology. Heart rate variability (HRV) has substantial health implications regarding the ability to adapt to stressors and has been shown to be altered in many cardiovascular and neurological disorders. Intriguingly, previous work found significant, strong correlations between HRV and geomagnetic/solar activity. The purpose of this study to replicate these findings. We simultaneously measured HRV during a 30-day period.

Methods: We recruited 20 healthy participants and measured their HRV for a 30-day period. We also collected geomagnetic and solar activity during this period for investigating their relationship with the HRV data.

Results: In agreement with previous work, we found several significant correlations between short-term HRV and geophysical time-series. However, after correction for autocorrelation, which is inherent in time-series, the only significant results were an increase in very low frequency during higher local geomagnetic activity and a geomagnetic anticipatory decrease in heart rate a day before the higher global geomagnetic activity. Both correlations were very low. The loss of most significant effects after this correction suggests that previous findings may be a result of autocorrelation. A further note of caution is required since our and the previous studies in the field do not correct for multiple comparisons given the exploratory analysis strategy.

Conclusion: We thus conclude that the effects of geomagnetic and solar activity are (if present) most likely of very small effect size and we question the validity of the previous studies given the methodological concerns we have uncovered with our work.

Keywords: Geomagnetic activity; Heart rate variability; Solar activity.

Publication types

  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Healthy Volunteers
  • Heart Rate / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Magnetic Fields*
  • Male
  • Solar Activity*
  • Young Adult