Better Heart Rate Variability Leads to Better Emotional Control in Depressed Women

Kristen Sparrow • September 15, 2023

Background created by fractal geometry
Heart Rate Variability is a fractal, complexity measure. Complexity=healthy

This study is looking at the high emotion regulation difficulties in women with depression.   What they found was that higher (healthier HRV, higher vagal tone) lead to better emotional control and less severe depressive symptoms.  Lower HRV has even been associated with cognitive decline.The explanation si that there is increased cognitive flexibility in patients with higher HRV.  This makes the utmost sense to me since measures of HRV are correlated highly with emotional well-being and mood.

Fantini-Hauwel C, Batselé E, Gois C, Noel X. Emotion Regulation Difficulties Are Not Always Associated With Negative Outcomes on Women: The Buffer Effect of HRV. Front Psychol. 2020 Apr 30;11:697. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2020.00697. PMID: 32425846; PMCID: PMC7212345.



The Heart Rate Variability (HRV) is regularly associated with depression and trait emotion regulation. However, the interaction between HRV and emotional disturbances is still debated. Only a few studies indicate that HRV moderates the effect of personality traits involved in psychopathological disorders. Since the regulation of emotions is a transdiagnostic factor for most psychological disorders, this study aimed to explore whether HRV moderates the relationship between trait emotion dysregulation and depressive symptoms. We collected data from 148 participants via online questionnaires and HRV measurements at rest. Results show for the 114 female remaining in the study that whereas high emotion regulation difficulties led to higher depressive symptoms severity when resting HRV is low, depressive symptoms remain stable in the same condition but when resting HRV is high. Overall, high resting HRV appears to dampen the consequences of trait emotion regulation difficulties. Further studies are needed to confirm this result, but this suggests that usual response tendencies could be overcome by deactivating or inhibitory processes such as those implied in cognitive flexibility reflected through HRV, according to the neurovisceral integration model.

Note: The future perspective involves replicating this study in an experimental emotional induction plan to determine if an HRV buffering effect in a challenging situation is really present, and to take into account a potential joint effect of resting-HRV and phasic HRV (reactivity). In conclusion, our result may suggest that HRV augmentation through clinical interventions such as biofeedback (), mindfulness () or executive functioning enhancement () can be an additional perspective to help reduce depressive symptoms when people cannot disengage them from what they usually do to regulate their emotional states.