Relationship of Heart Rate Variability (HRV) Parameters Including pNNxx With the Subjective Experience of Stress, Depression, Well-Being, and Every-Day Trait Moods (TRIM-T): A Pilot Study

Michael Trimmel*
Medical University of Vienna, Centre of Public Health, Institute of Environmental Hygiene, Kinderspitalgasse 15, A-1090 Vienna, Austria.

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Trimmel et al.; Licensee Bentham Open

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Medical University of Vienna, Centre of Public Health, Institute of Environmental Hygiene, Kinderspitalgasse 15, A-1090 Vienna, Austria; Tel: +31 (0)15 2783028; Fax: +31 (0)15 2787179; E-mail:


Heart rate variability (HRV) is an established indication of cardiovascular regulation and is often not only considered in relation to health, but also to subjective aspects of perceived affect. However, as the various HRV parameters are not identical but interrelated, they vary in regard to different aspects of every-day moods, stress, and depression. Therefore it is suggested that those HRV parameters would discriminate perceived affect. This study compares the relationship of HRV parameters to aspects of every-day affect. In 60 persons heart rate (HR) and HRV measures of time domain parameters (including pNNxx parameters), frequency domain parameters, and relative parameters (from twenty-four hour electrocardiography recordings) were investigated in relation to perceived stress (PSQ), anxiety (STAI-T), depression (BDI-II), general well-being (GWBS), and traits of every-day moods (TRIM-T). Results showed that HRV parameters were correlated to most subjective measures (PSQ, BDI-II, GWBS, and good mood and relaxation in TRIM-T). Low pNNxx parameters (pNN10 - pNN40) correlated negatively with stress and depression and positively with well-being, whereas high pNNxx parameters (pNN125 - pNN175), SDNN, ultralow frequency (ULF), and total power (TP) were in particular correlated to good mood. Furthermore, results showed that slow rhythms, in particular ULF, were correlated to positive affect (good mood, relaxation), but not to negative affect (stress, anxiety, depression). Correlations of cardiovascular activity with well-being are less pronounced, indicating that the construct of well being may be seen as a mixture of positive affect and low stress - and is in general less related to cardiovascular activity than stress and/or good mood. For relative HRV measures, in particular for log LF/HF (which is often interpreted as a measure of autonomic balance), no correlations with every-day affect were observed. Results further indicate that the time domain parameters of pNNxx (in particular pNN10 - pNN40 vs. pNN125 - pNN175) are differentially related to negative/positive affect, contrary to heart rate, and may therefore be considered as an objective indication of affect.

Keywords: Affect, autonomic balance, cardiac physiology, cardiovascular regulation, emotion, health.