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Keywords:

  • major depression;
  • heart rate variability;
  • autonomic nervous system;
  • primary care

Abstract

Objective

To determine whether older primary care patients with a Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) have lower heart rate variability (HRV) compared to non-depressed patients. HRV is a measure of cardiac autonomic functioning.

Method

A cross-sectional comparison of 136 elderly persons with MDD and 136 non-depressed controls (matched for age and gender) recruited in family practices in the Netherlands. Depression was determined according to the DSM–IV criteria using the PRIME–MD. HRV was measured with an electrocardiogram (ECG) during a 5-minute supine rest.

Results

Multivariate analyses showed statistically significant decrease in HRV in MDD patients compared with controls.

Conclusion

Older primary care patients with MDD have a reduced HRV. This may explain why depression is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease and mortality. Copyright © 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.