Background: Respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) has been proposed as a physiological marker of emotion-regulation capacity, and shown to be cross-sectionally associated with depression. Little is known about the role of RSA as a predictor of (subclinical) depressive symptoms over time and as a modifier of the depressogenic effect of stressful life events (SLEs). Methods: In a longitudinal population-based study with data collected in 1653 adolescents twice (at age 11 and 13.5 years, respectively), RSA was assessed in supine position at the first assessment wave. Depressive symptoms were assessed at both waves and SLEs experienced between the two waves at the last wave. Results: Low levels of RSA were not associated with concurrent or future depressive symptoms, and did not enhance the depressogenic effects of SLEs. Conclusions: In a normal population of young adolescents, a low level of RSA does not identify adolescents at risk for depressive symptoms when confronted with SLEs. In post hoc analyses, among those reporting high exposure to stressful life events, higher RSA tended to predict less self-reported anxiety and more self-reported somatic symptoms as compared to those with lower RSA.

Adolescence, Anxiety, Depression, Emotion regulation, Heart rate variability, Longitudinal, Respiratory sinus arrhythmia, Self regulation, Somatic symptoms, Stressful life events, Vagal tone, adolescent, age distribution, article, child, child care, data collection method, depression, disease marker, female, human, life event, longitudinal study, major clinical study, male, patient identification, post hoc analysis, priority journal, risk assessment, school child, self report, sinus arrhythmia, stressful life event, supine position, vagus tone
dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.biopsycho.2009.01.005, hdl.handle.net/1765/16574
Biological Psychology
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

Bosch, N.M, Riese, H, Ormel, J, Verhulst, F.C, & Oldehinkel, A.J. (2009). Stressful life events and depressive symptoms in young adolescents: Modulation by respiratory sinus arrhythmia? The TRAILS study. Biological Psychology, 81(1), 40–47. doi:10.1016/j.biopsycho.2009.01.005