Resting heart rate variability (HRV), a surrogate index of cardiac vagal modulation, is considered a putative biomarker of stress resilience as it reflects the ability to effectively regulate emotions in a changing environment. However, most studies are cross-sectional, precluding longitudinal inferences. The high degree of uncertainty and fear at a global level that characterizes the COVID-19 pandemic offers a unique opportunity to explore the utility of HRV measures as longitudinal predictors of stress resilience. This study examined whether resting measures of HRV prior to the COVID-19 outbreak (i.e. nearly 2 years before; Time 0) could predict emotion regulation strategies and daily affect in healthy adults during the May 2020 lockdown (Time 1). Moreover, we evaluated the association between HRV measures, emotion regulation strategies, subjective perception of COVID-19 risk, and self-reported depressive symptoms at Time 1. Higher resting HRV at Time 0 predicted a stronger engagement in more functional emotion regulation strategies, as well as of higher daily feelings of safeness and reduced daily worry at Time 1. Moreover, depressive symptoms negatively correlated with HRV and positively correlated with the subjective perception of COVID-19 risk at Time 1. Current data support the view that HRV might not only be a marker but also a precursor of resilience under stressful times.
- Heart rate variability