The variable heart: High frequency and very low frequency correlates of depressive symptoms in children and adolescents

Academic Article


  • © 2015 Elsevier B.V. Abstract Background: Work examining the link between lower heart rate variability (HRV) and depression in children and adolescents is lacking, especially in light of the physiological changes that occur during pubertal development. Method: We investigated the association between spectral measures of resting HRV and depressive symptoms among 127 children and adolescents, ages 10-17. Using spectral analysis, we evaluated (1) the association between relative high frequency (HF) HRV and depressive symptoms; (2) the predictive power of relative HF HRV for depressive symptoms in the context of relative low frequency (LF) and relative very low frequency (VLF) HRV; and (3) the relationship between relative HF, LF, and VLF band activity, age and pubertal maturation. Results: Consistent with previous work, results revealed that relative HF HRV was negatively associated with self-reported depressive symptoms. As well, relative VLF HRV was positively associated with depressive symptoms. Regression analyses revealed that relative HF HRV and relative VLF HRV significantly predicted self-report depressive symptoms while controlling for age, sex and pubertal maturation, with relative VLF HRV emerging as the strongest indicator of depressive symptoms. Developmental findings also emerged. Age and pubertal maturation were negatively associated with relative HF HRV and positively correlated with relative VLF HRV. Conclusions: Results provide support for the relationship between HRV and depression and suggest that both HF and VLF HRV are relevant to depression symptom severity. Findings also reinforce the importance of considering pubertal development when investigating HRV-depression associations in children and adolescents. Limitations: Influences on cardiac control including physical activity levels and exercise patterns could be controlled in future work. Our data speak to a depressive symptom dimension and relative spectral power HRV. Thus, we cannot make strong claims about relative spectral power HRV and clinical depression.
  • Published In

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Pubmed Id

  • 18162992
  • Author List

  • Blood JD; Wu J; Chaplin TM; Hommer R; Vazquez L; Rutherford HJV; Mayes LC; Crowley MJ
  • Start Page

  • 119
  • End Page

  • 126
  • Volume

  • 186