A longitudinal study in youth of heart rate variability at rest and in response to stress

Zhibin Li, Harold Snieder, Shaoyong Su, Xiuhua Ding, Julian F. Thayer, Frank A. Treiber, Xiaoling Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

128 Scopus citations


Background: Few longitudinal studies have examined ethnic and sex differences, predictors and tracking stabilities of heart rate variability (HRV) at rest and in response to stress in youths and young adults. Methods: Two evaluations were performed approximately 1.5 years apart on 399 youths and young adults (189 European Americans [EAs] and 210 African Americans [AAs]; 190 males and 209 females). HRV was measured at rest and during a video game challenge. Results: AAs showed significantly higher resting root mean square of successive differences (RMSSD) of normal R-R intervals and high-frequency (HF) power than EAs (ps < 0.01). Females displayed larger decrease of RMSSD and HF during video game challenge than males (ps < 0.05). These ethnic and sex differences were consistent across 1.5 years. No significant sex difference of resting HRV or ethnic difference of HRV response to stress was observed. In addition to age, ethnicity or sex, baseline resting HRV or HRV response to stress are predictors of the corresponding variables 1.5 years later (ps < 0.01). Furthermore, weight gain indexed by either body mass index or waist circumference predicts declined resting HRV levels during follow up (ps < 0.05). Tracking stabilities were high (> 0.5) for resting HRV, but relatively low (< 0.3) for HRV in response to stress. Conclusion: AAs show higher resting HRV than EAs, and females display greater HRV response to stress than males; and these ethnic and sex differences are consistent across 1.5 years. Resting HRV declines with weight gain.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)212-217
Number of pages6
JournalInternational Journal of Psychophysiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2009


  • Ethnicity
  • Heart rate variability
  • Longitudinal study
  • Sex

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Physiology (medical)


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