New method predicts who will suffer most from stress

Toronto : A new method that measures heart rate variability can identify people who are most susceptible to stress, scientists say, reports PTI.

People who exhibit a less variable heartbeat when they start worrying are more likely to be highly stressed later on, researchers have found. Researchers from Concordia University in Canada followed 76 university students during periods of lower stress at the beginning of term and higher stress during the exam period.

Jean-Philippe Gouin and colleagues found that although all students experience similar challenges during finals, only some of them develop significant distress. With the help of Concordia colleague Sonya Deschenes and Michel Dugas from the Universite du Quebec en Outaouais, Gouin recorded participants’ heart rate variability while they were relaxing and while they were thinking about things they tend to worry about most.

They also tracked participants’ moods at a time of low stress early in the semester and at a time of high stress right before exams. They found that those who exhibited a less variable heartbeat when they started worrying were more likely to be highly stressed later on, when faced with finals.

“At rest, a more variable heartbeat is a good thing. It shows that your parasympathetic nervous system is hard at work. That’s the system that’s responsible for the ‘rest-and-digest’ state of being – the opposite of ‘fight-or-flight’,” Gouin said.

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