Disruption in circadian rhythms is associated with cardiovascular disease and may play a role in socioeconomic differences in cardiovascular disease prevalence. However, it is unclear whether low SES is associated with a lower diurnal rhythm in autonomic activity markers. We investigated the association between SES and the amplitude of the daily fluctuation of heart rate.
We included data of 450 participants of a HELIUS sub-study in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Participants wore an Actiheart monitor (CamNtech), a chest-worn monitor which measures heart rate every 15 s for several days. Cosinor analysis was performed on the time series of heart rate within each participant. We analyzed the association between the cosinor parameters (amplitude, midline and peak time of the diurnal HR rhythm) and SES indicators (education, occupational class and a proxy of income) in multivariate linear regression models, adjusting for age, sex and ethnicity.
There was a clear diurnal rhythm in the average heart rates, with a peak between noon and 18:00 and a trough between 04:00 and 06:00. This rhythm was present for all categories of education, occupation and income proxy. The estimates for the cosinor parameters did not differ consistently and significantly between categories of education, occupation or income proxy.
We did not find any consistent evidence to support our hypothesis of a diminished amplitude in the diurnal variation of heart rate in individuals with lower SES. Future studies should explore SES differences in the diurnal variation in markers of autonomic activity other than heart rate.