...analyzed data from 1,065 participants in the Midlife in the United States (MIDUS) study, a longitudinal effort looking at well-being as adults age. Participants completed a series of stressful computer tasks, including a mental math task and a color identification task.
Before, during and after the tasks, researchers measured participants’ heart rate and asked them to rate their stress on a scale of one to 10 throughout the study.
After the participants completed the stress tests, researchers compared each person’s heart rate to the stress levels they reported — a measure called “stress-heart rate coherence”— and found that some people’s stress levels aligned with their heart rate better than others.
To examine the link between stress-heart rate coherence and people’s emotional well-being, researchers used psychological questionnaires focused on well-being, depression, anxiety and coping as well as blood samples measuring inflammation markers. Researchers found that people with greater stress-heart rate coherence had fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression, greater overall psychological well-being and lower levels of inflammation.Here is the journal article's abstract:
The physiological response to stress is intertwined with, but distinct from, the subjective feeling of stress, although both systems must work in concert to enable adaptive responses. We investigated 1,065 participants from the Midlife in the United States 2 study who completed a self-report battery and a stress-induction procedure while physiological and self-report measures of stress were recorded. Individual differences in the association between heart rate and self-reported stress were analyzed in relation to measures that reflect psychological well-being (self-report measures of well-being, anxiety, depression), denial coping, and physical well-being (proinflammatory biomarkers interleukin-6 and C-reactive protein). The within-participants association between heart rate and self-reported stress was significantly related to higher psychological well-being, fewer depressive symptoms, lower trait anxiety, less use of denial coping, and lower levels of proinflammatory biomarkers. Our results highlight the importance of studying individual differences in coherence between physiological measures and subjective mental states in relation to well-being.And here is a PDF of the article.