Linking an anxiety-related personality trait to cardiac autonomic regulation in well-defined healthy adults: Harm avoidance and resting heart rate variability

Lien Cheng Kao, Yu Wen Liu, Nian Sheng Tzeng, Terry B.J. Kuo, San Yuan Huang, Chuan Chia Chang, Hsin An Chang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

2 Citations (Scopus)


Objective Anxiety trait, anxiety and depression states have all been reported to increase risks for cardiovascular disease (CVD), possibly through altering cardiac autonomic regulation. Our aim was to investigate whether the relationship between harm avoidance (HA, an anxiety-related personality trait) and cardiac autonomic regulation is independent of anxiety and depression states in healthy adults. Methods We recruited 535 physically and mentally healthy volunteers. Participants completed the Beck Anxiety Inventory (BAI), Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) and Tri-dimensional Personality Questionnaire. Participants were divided into high or low HA groups as discriminated by the quartile value. Cardiac autonomic function was evaluated by measuring heart rate variability (HRV). We obtained the time and frequency-domain indices of HRV including variance (total HRV), the low-frequency power (LF; 0.05–0.15 Hz), which may reflect baroreflex function, the high-frequency power (HF; 0.15–0.40 Hz), which reflects cardiac parasympathetic activity, as well as the LF/ HF ratio. Results The BDI and HA scores showed associations with HRV parameters. After adjustment for the BDI scores and other control variables, HA is still associated with reduced variance, LF and HF power. Compared with the participants with low HA, those with high HA displayed significant reductions in variance, LF and HF power and a significant increase in their LF/HF ratio. Conclusion This study highlights the independent role of HA in contributing to decreased autonomic cardiac regulation in healthy adults and provides a potential underlying mechanism for anxiety trait to confer increased risk for CVD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)397-405
Number of pages9
JournalPsychiatry Investigation
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jul 1 2016
Externally publishedYes



  • Anxiety
  • Anxiety trait
  • Depression
  • Harm avoidance
  • Rate variability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry

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