Volume 47 (2009) Issue 6 Pages 589-602
This systematic review evaluates and summarizes the evidence of association between work-related factors and heart rate variability (HRV) in workers. We reviewed English articles indexed in MEDLINE under the key words: work, worker, occupational, industrial, and heart rate variability. Studies were included if one or more of the dependent variables was one of the time- or frequency-domain indexes of HRV [standard deviation of all normal-to-normal (NN) intervals (SDNN), mean of the 5-min standard deviations of NN intervals calculated over several hours (SDNN index), the root mean squared differences of successive NN intervals (RMSSD), integrated spectral powers of high (HF, > 0.15 Hz) and low frequency (LF, 0.04-0.15 Hz) HRV, and the LF/HF ratio] as recommended by the European Society of Cardiology and the North American Society of Pacing Electrophysiology. Physical and chemical work environments (i.e. exposure to occupational toxicants and hazardous environments), psychosocial workload (i.e. job stressors), and working time (i.e. shift work) had been examined and identified as having associations with low HF power. These findings may indicate that research into parasympathetic nervous system activity should be focused to protect cardiovascular health at work. We also propose the use of very low and ultralow frequency HRV components in autonomic research for workers' health.