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ORIGINAL ARTICLE
Year : 2014  |  Volume : 34  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 9-18

Depression, anxiety, and heart rate variability: A case-control study in Taiwan


1 Department of Psychiatry, Tri-Service General Hospital, National Defense Medical Center, Taipei, Taiwan, Republic of China
2 Department of Psychiatry, Tri-Service General Hospital; Student Counseling Center, National Defense Medical Center, Taipei, Taiwan, Republic of China
3 Institute of Brain Science, National Yang-Ming University, Taipei, Taiwan, Republic of China
4 Department of Psychiatry, Tri-Service General Hospital Songshan Branch, Taipei, Taiwan, Republic of China

Correspondence Address:
Hsin-An Chang
Department of Psychiatry, Tri-Service General Hospital, National Defense Medical Center, No. 325, Sec. 2, Cheng-gong Road, Taipei 114, Taiwan
Republic of China
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/1011-4564.129383

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Objective: Decreased heart rate variability (HRV) has been reported in persons with major depressive disorder (MDD), but the results obtained are inconsistent. Little is known about the impact of comorbid anxiety disorders on HRV in MDD patients. Both issues necessitate further investigation. Materials and Methods: Forty-nine unmedicated, physically healthy, MDD patients without comorbidity, 21 MDD patients with comorbid generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), 24 MDD patients with comorbid panic disorder (PD), and 81 matched controls were recruited. The Hamilton Depression Rating Scale and the Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale are employed to assess the severity of depression and anxiety, respectively. The cardiac autonomic function was evaluated by measuring the HRV parameters. The frequency-domain indices of HRV were obtained. Results: MDD patients without comorbidity had lower high-frequency (HF)-HRV (which reflected vagal control of HRV) than controls. Any comorbid anxiety disorder (GAD or PD) was associated with significantly faster heart rates, relative to the controls, and caused greater reductions in HF-HRV among MDD patients. MDD participants with comorbid GAD displayed the greatest reductions in HF-HRV, relative to controls. Correlation analyses revealed that the severity of both depression and anxiety were significantly associated with the mean R wave to R wave (R-R) intervals, variance, low-frequency (LF)-HRV, and HF-HRV. Conclusion: The present results show decreased HRV in MDD patients, suggesting that reduction in HRV is a psychophysiological marker of MDD. MDD patients with comorbid GAD had the greatest reductions in HRV. Further investigation of the links between MDD and comorbid GAD, HRV, and cardiovascular disease is warranted.


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