Association between HRV and Social Anxiety in a College Population

ECU Author/Contributor (non-ECU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Eliza Varju (Creator)
East Carolina University (ECU )
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Abstract: Social anxiety is a condition marked by avoidance of social situations and marked stress when engaging in social interactions. In college populations , the prevalence rate has been observed as high as 33% and considering the newly independent circumstances freshman students face it would be advantageous to understand possible correlates in the form of HRV (Strahan , 2003). Heart rate variability (HRV) is a means of measuring the variance in heart rate that is attributed to the parasympathetic processes of the body. It has been found that in those with impaired functioning in regards to emotional regulation , a lowered HRV is present (Alvarez , 2013; Thayer , 2000). The study examined the association between HRV and symptoms of social anxiety measured by the Social Interaction Anxiety Scale (SIAS) among 68 students (mean age = 18.84 , male = 52.9%) , including possible confounding variables in the form of age , gender , and BMI. The SIAS scale used in the study is a twenty item questionnaire which provides a cutoff score for social phobia and at a higher value , social anxiety. HRV was measured using the Lead-II ECG technique with electrodes attached to the insides of both ankles and the right wrist. Baseline HRV was recorded for 10 minutes while participants watched a neutral stimulus video. Though we found no association between HRV and social anxiety (p = 0.608) , our sample was impaired by data collection issues that resulted in a sample of 68 students from an original sample of 88. Additionally , our measure of social anxiety may not have captured the sub-clinical levels of social anxiety that impair college students more frequently than levels of social anxiety at the level of Social Anxiety Disorder. With less than one-third of the participants scoring above the threshold for social anxiety , the possibility of an analysis detecting a correlation between social anxiety and HRV would be affected.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2019
HRV, Social Anxiety, Heart-rate Variability

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