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Blunted cardiac reactions to acute psychological stress predict symptoms of depression five years later: Evidence from a large community study


  • The West of Scotland Twenty-07 Study is funded by the UK Medical Research Council (WBS U.1300.80.001.00001), and the data were originally collected by the MRC Social and Public Health Sciences Unit. We are grateful to all of the participants in the Study and to the survey staff and research nurses who carried it out. The data are employed here with the permission of the Twenty-07 Steering Group (Project No. EC0503). Kate Hunt and Geoff Der are also funded by the MRC.

Address correspondence to: Anna C. Phillips, Ph.D., School of Sport and Exercise Sciences, University of Birmingham, Birmingham B15 2TT, England. E-mail:


We recently reported a cross-sectional negative relationship between cardiovascular reactivity and depressive symptoms. The present analyses examined the prospective association between reactivity and symptoms of depression 5 years later. At the earlier time point, depressive symptoms, measured using the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS), and cardiovascular reactions to a standard mental stress were measured in 1,608 adults comprising three distinct age cohorts: 24-, 44-, and 63-year-olds. Depression was reassessed using the HADS 5 years later. Heart rate reactions to acute psychological stress were negatively associated with subsequent depressive symptoms; the lower the reactivity the higher the depression scores. This association withstood adjustment for symptom scores at the earlier time point and for sociodemographic factors and medication status. The mechanisms underlying this prospective relationship remain to be determined.