The COVID-19 pandemic is a unique period of stress that, in some cases, led to post-traumatic stress symptoms (PTSSs). Emotion regulation strategies are known to modulate the emotional response to stressful events. Expressive suppression (ES) is a maladaptive strategy related to the exacerbation of the physiological stress response. Heart rate variability (HRV), an index of cardiac autonomic balance strictly related to ES, was also shown to predict PTSSs. This was the first study to investigate whether the pre-pandemic ES use and resting-state HRV predicted pandemic-related PTSSs. Before the pandemic, 83 (58 females) university students completed the Emotion Regulation Questionnaire (ERQ), self-report measures of anxiety and depressive symptoms, and a three-minute resting-state electrocardiogram recording. After 12 months, 61 (45 females) participants completed a self-report measure of pandemic-related PTSSs and repeated the self-report psychological measures. Pre-pandemic anxiety symptoms prospectively predicted greater PTSSs. Moreover, a significant interaction between HRV and ES in predicting PTSSs emerged, whereby those who had higher levels of ES and reduced HRV showed higher PTSSs. These findings suggest that an integrated assessment of HRV and ES might be useful for identifying individuals who are more vulnerable to the development of PTSSs during crises.

Reduced heart rate variability and expressive suppression interact to prospectively predict COVID-19 pandemic-related post-traumatic stress symptoms.

Carola Dell'Acqua
Writing – Original Draft Preparation
;
Francesca Mura
Data Curation
;
Simone Messerotti Benvenuti
Conceptualization
;
Elisabetta Patron
Conceptualization
;
Daniela Palomba
Conceptualization
2022

Abstract

The COVID-19 pandemic is a unique period of stress that, in some cases, led to post-traumatic stress symptoms (PTSSs). Emotion regulation strategies are known to modulate the emotional response to stressful events. Expressive suppression (ES) is a maladaptive strategy related to the exacerbation of the physiological stress response. Heart rate variability (HRV), an index of cardiac autonomic balance strictly related to ES, was also shown to predict PTSSs. This was the first study to investigate whether the pre-pandemic ES use and resting-state HRV predicted pandemic-related PTSSs. Before the pandemic, 83 (58 females) university students completed the Emotion Regulation Questionnaire (ERQ), self-report measures of anxiety and depressive symptoms, and a three-minute resting-state electrocardiogram recording. After 12 months, 61 (45 females) participants completed a self-report measure of pandemic-related PTSSs and repeated the self-report psychological measures. Pre-pandemic anxiety symptoms prospectively predicted greater PTSSs. Moreover, a significant interaction between HRV and ES in predicting PTSSs emerged, whereby those who had higher levels of ES and reduced HRV showed higher PTSSs. These findings suggest that an integrated assessment of HRV and ES might be useful for identifying individuals who are more vulnerable to the development of PTSSs during crises.
2022
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11577/3464322
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