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In order to elucidate the complex relationship between co-occurring depression and anxiety with cardiac autonomic function in the elderly, this study examined the correlation between cardiac vagal control (CVC) and pre-defined, theoretical factors from the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS).
Three hundred fifty-four randomly selected Chinese male subjects aged ≥65 years and living in the community were enrolled. CVC was measured using a frequency-domain index of heart rate variability.
Confirmatory factor analysis showed that the flat tripartite model of HADS provided a modest advantage in model fit when compared with other theoretical factor solutions. In the flat tripartite model, there was a significant negative association between anhedonic depression and CVC. In contrast, autonomic anxiety showed a significant positive correlation with CVC. In the hierarchical tripartite model, negative affectivity was not directly associated with CVC; instead, it had positive and negative indirect effects on CVC via autonomic anxiety and anhedonic depression, respectively. As scores for negative affectivity increased, these specific indirect effects diminished.
Among competing models of co-occurring depression and anxiety, constructs from tripartite models demonstrate fair conformity with the data but unique and distinct correlations with CVC. Negative affectivity may determine the relationship of anhedonic depression and autonomic anxiety with CVC. Separating affective symptoms under the constructs of the tripartite models helps disentangle complex associations between co-occurring depression and anxiety with CVC.