The last two decades have seen a tremendous increase in efforts to identify and understand the pathways that underlie disparities in disease and health among minority populations in the US. In a similar span of time there has been a proliferation of research examining the role of the parasympathetic nervous system and in particular its regulation of the heart in relation to numerous mental and physical health outcomes. Despite these developments, it has only been relatively recently that researchers have begun to consider the relationship of cultural factors to parasympathetic autonomic control. In this chapter we provide an overview of heart rate variability (HRV), one of the primary biomarkers, or indicators, of parasympathetic activity. We also describe a regulatory model linking HRV to health and disease, and review the extant literature exploring associations among HRV, ethnicity, and discrimination. Last, we discuss some of the considerations suggested by this research that may be useful in guiding future thinking on the relationship between cultural factors and parasympathetic activity.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Heart rate variability