Vagally Mediated Heart Rate Variability in a Large Student Sample: Relationships with Self-Reported Anxiety, Depression, Sleep-Quality, Physical Activity, Resilience, and Metacognitions
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- Institutt for psykologi 
Vagally mediated heart rate variability (vmHRV) has been proposed as a psychophysiological index of self-regulatory capacity and has been found to be significantly lower in individuals with anxiety and depression compared to healthy controls. The main aim of the current study was to investigate the relation between vmHRV, symptoms of anxiety and depression, psychopathology vulnerability factors- (metacognitions) and protective mental health factors (resilience), as well as sleep and physical activity in a large sample of students. Method: Novel methods in HRV-measurement were employed, in addition to self-reported survey data. The relations between vmHRV, anxiety, depression, metacognitions, resilience, sleep, and physical activity were analysed with correlation- and path analyses. Results: In contrast to expectations, vmHRV was not significantly correlated with symptoms of anxiety and depression, resilience, metacognitions or sleep quality in the current study. However, vmHRV was weakly correlated in the expected direction to self-reported general physical activity level, which in turn was correlated with symptoms of anxiety and depression, suggesting indirect relationships between vmHRV and symptoms of anxiety and depression. The path analysis showed that resilience in particular appeared to function as a bridge between the physical and mental health factors included in the study. Conclusion: The study demonstrated that vmHRV can be successfully measured in a large sample in a time-efficient way. The association between vmHRV, physical- and psychological variables in the current study showed complex relationships, suggesting a dynamic interplay between different levels of physiological and mental health factors. Future studies could try to replicate the findings using other methods of measuring vmHRV and demonstrate the associations in longitudinal study-designs.