Autonomic and emotion regulation in bereavement and depression

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

69 Scopus citations


Objectives: Prior research suggests important differences between depression and the depressed feelings experienced in the context of bereavement, despite some overlap. Differences include an increase in restlessness, suggesting underlying physiological differences between the groups. Method: This study examined the level of depressive symptoms, heart rate (HR), and heart rate variability (HRV), and coping style of 10 bereaved, 10 depressed, and 10 control participants. Results: Bereaved participants showed significantly higher HR than either depressed or control participants, while there were no such differences in HRV. Level of depression in the bereaved group correlated negatively with HRV. Additional analyses showed that the use of passive coping had a marginally significant negative correlation with HRV in bereaved subjects. Conclusion: The present data suggest that differences in HR and HRV could be associated with increased cardiovascular fatalities in bereaved individuals, known as the "broken heart phenomenon." These physiological differences have potential implications for both the mental and physical health of the bereaved.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)183-185
Number of pages3
JournalJournal of Psychosomatic Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2002


  • Autonomic
  • Bereavement
  • Coping
  • Depression
  • Emotion
  • Heart rate

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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