Combined effect of depressive symptoms and hostility on autonomic nervous system function

Misty A.W. Hawkins, Jesse C. Stewart, Griffin J. Fitzgerald, Sungkyung Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Depression and hostility have been separately related to indicators of sympathetic hyperactivation and parasympathetic hypoactivation. We examined the associations of depressive symptoms, hostility, and their interaction with pre-ejection period (PEP) and high frequency heart rate variability (HRV), specific indices of sympathetic and parasympathetic cardiac control, respectively. Healthy, young adults (N= 120) completed questionnaires assessing depressive symptoms and hostility and underwent autonomic testing. Although main effects were not observed, a depressive symptoms × hostility interaction was detected for PEP (Β= .25, p= .01). Simple slope analyses revealed that hostility was negatively related to PEP among individuals with low depressive symptoms but was not associated with PEP among those with mild-to-moderate depressive symptoms. No interaction effect was detected for high frequency HRV. Our findings suggest that depressive symptoms may moderate the link between hostility and sympathetic activation such that hostility is accompanied by sympathetic hyperactivation only when depressive symptoms are minimal.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)317-323
Number of pages7
JournalInternational Journal of Psychophysiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Depression
  • Heart rate variability
  • Hostility
  • Parasympathetic nervous system
  • Pre-ejection period
  • Sympathetic nervous system


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