• Cardiac stress;
  • Environment;
  • Electrocardiogram;
  • Heart rate variability;
  • Older population


Little is known about older people's physiological and emotional responses to environmental triggers. We examined this by estimating cardiac stress from heart rate variability (HRV). Thirty-eight participants were monitored while observing environmental scenarios at familiar and unfamiliar locations. Image scenarios included pedestrian and driving scenes in a random order. HRV indices including heart rate (HR), QT variability index (QTVI) and Total HRV Power (TP) were quantified. Familiar locations were associated with higher HR (p < .0005) and lower TP (p = .005) than unfamiliar locations, suggesting they were more stressful. HRV responses to pedestrian and driving scenarios indicated that stress was not influenced by either the type of image scenario or the order of image presentation. There were no gender-related differences in cardiac responses. HRV is a useful surrogate of cardiac stress when assessing older people's responses to their environments.