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Low heart rate variability in patients with clinical burnout

Journal article
Authors Anna Karin Lennartsson
Ingibjörg H Jonsdottir
Anna Sjörs
Published in International Journal of Psychophysiology
Volume 110
Pages 171-178
ISSN 0167-8760
Publication year 2016
Published at Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology, Department of Clinical Neuroscience and Rehabilitation
Department of Food and Nutrition, and Sport Science
Pages 171-178
Language en
Keywords Autonomic nervous system, Clinical burnout, Heart rate variability, Non-clinical burnout, Vagal tone
Subject categories Clinical Medicine, Clinical physiology


© 2016 Elsevier B.V.Several studies have shown that acute psychosocial stress and chronic psychosocial stress reduce heart rate variability (HRV). It is likely that individuals suffering from burnout have reduced HRV, as a consequence of the long-term stress exposure. This study investigated HRV in 54 patients with clinical burnout (40 women and 14 men) and in 55 individuals reporting low burnout scores (healthy; 24 women and 31 men) and 52 individuals reporting high burnout scores (non-clinical burnout; 33 women and 19 men). The participants underwent a 300 s ECG recording in the supine position. Standard deviation of normal R-R intervals (SDNN) and the root mean square of successive normal interval differences (RMSSD) were derived from time domain HRV analysis. Frequency domain HRV measures; total power (TP), low frequency power (LF), high frequency power (HF), and LF/HF ratio were calculated. All HRV measures, except LF/HF ratio, were lower in the clinical burnout patients compared to both the non-clinical burnout group and the healthy group. The difference was larger between the patients and the healthy group than between the patients and the non-clinical burnout group. HRV did not differ significantly between the non-clinical burnout group and the healthy group. Low HRV in burnout patients may constitute one of the links to associated adverse health, since low HRV reflects low parasympathetic activity – and accordingly low anabolic/regenerative activity.

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