Major Depressive Disorder is Associated with Attenuated Cardiovascular Reactivity and Impaired Recovery in Those Free of Cardiovascular Disease

Kristen Salomon, University of South Florida
April Dyal, University of South Florida
Mardís Sara Karlsdóttir, University of South Florida
Johnathan Rottenberg, University of South Florida


Objective: To examine cardiovascular reactivity and recovery to laboratory stress among a naturalistic sample of individuals diagnosed with major depressive disorder (MDD) and healthy control participants. Prospective evidence suggests that MDD confers risk for cardiovascular disease equal to or greater than the risk associated with depressed mood. Enhanced cardiovascular reactivity has been proposed as a mechanism explaining increased risk, but data are inconsistent as to whether depressed individuals exhibit enhanced or attenuated reactivity. Further, few studies have examined appraisal and recovery differences. Design: Participants diagnosed with MDD (N = 25) and healthy control participants (N = 25) engaged in a cardiovascular reactivity protocol including 2 tasks, each followed by a brief recovery period. Main outcome measures: Blood pressure, heart rate, pre-ejection period, cardiac output and total peripheral resistance were assessed. Appraisals of tasks were assessed prior to each task. Results: Depressed participants exhibited significantly less systolic blood pressure, heart rate, and cardiac output reactivity during speech, less heart rate reactivity during mirror tracing, and less heart rate recovery after speech and mirror tracing than controls. Depressed participants appraised the tasks as more demanding, threatening, and stressful and reported being less able to cope than controls. Appraisals were related to heart rate reactivity, but appraisals did not mediate the relationship between depression group and reactivity. Conclusion: Impaired recovery rather than exaggerated cardiovascular reactivity may partially explain the increased prospective cardiovascular disease risk in depressed individuals.