Examining the association between perceived discrimination and heart rate variability in African Americans.


Journal Article

OBJECTIVE: Previous research attempting to delineate the role of discrimination in racial/ethnic disparities in hypertension has focused largely on blood pressure, which is chiefly governed by the sympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system. Consequently, few studies have considered the role of the parasympathetic branch and particularly its regulation of the heart via the vagus nerve. METHOD: In the present cross-sectional study, we employed hierarchical linear regressions to examine associations between perceived ethnic discrimination and resting heart rate variability (HRV), an important biomarker of parasympathetic cardiac modulation and overall health, in a sample (N = 103) of young, healthy African American participants (58% female, Mage = 19.94 years, SD = 2.84). RESULTS: After accounting for demographic factors and health status characteristics, lifetime discrimination emerged as an inverse predictor of HRV. When subdomains of discrimination were considered, discrimination attributable to threats or actual acts of aggression was also predictive of lower HRV. CONCLUSIONS: Our findings suggest that a greater lifetime burden of discrimination and discriminatory harassment and/or assault is associated with lower resting HRV in African Americans. The implications of these findings are discussed in the context of past, present and emerging research emphasizing biological linkages between discrimination and health. (PsycINFO Database Record

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Hill, LK; Hoggard, LS; Richmond, AS; Gray, DL; Williams, DP; Thayer, JF

Published Date

  • January 2017

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 23 / 1

Start / End Page

  • 5 - 14

PubMed ID

  • 28045306

Pubmed Central ID

  • 28045306

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1099-9809

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1037/cdp0000076


  • eng

Conference Location

  • United States