Heart Rate Variability as a Moderator of the Relations Between Marital Support and Social and Emotional Functioning Among Female Fibromyalgia Patients
Being able to self-regulate has been found to be an important part of a person’s physiological and psychological health. It allows someone to regulate their emotions well in trying to obtain a goal, or in realizing a goal is unobtainable and re-evaluating the situation to form an obtainable goal (Rasmussen, Wrosch, Scheier & Carver, 2006). Self-regulation can be measured in many ways, but a physiological measure of self-regulation is heart rate variability (HRV). HRV monitors the body’s response to emotional stressors through measuring how variable a person’s heartbeat is (Appelhans & Luecken, 2006). A second potential factor contributing to self-regulation is social closeness. Research has also shown that the more social closeness a person experiences, the better able they are to regulate their emotions (Kok & Fredrickson, 2010; Kok et al., 2013). Social closeness is assessed via self-reports. There is a difference between partners’ and self-reports, such that the partners tend to be more positive when asked about the participants through questionnaires (Vuorisalmi, Sarkeala, Hervonen & Jylhä, 2012). When examining the relationship between reports of spouses, research has shown that the husbands are worse at reliably reporting their wives’ behaviors, but are more reliable when reporting on personal situations between the couple than is the wife (Khawaja & Tewtel-Salem, 2004). To date we know that a higher HRV is associated with better self-regulation and that social closeness leads to better emotional regulation; however, we do not know if HRV and social closeness combine to predict better functionality or if it matters if the husbands or wives are filling out the self-reports on social closeness. This study investigated four hypotheses regarding the relations between HRV and social relations between partners and how the social or emotional functioning of female fibromyalgia (FM) patients. The first hypothesis is that when the FM patient feels disregard from her partner, she is more likely to exhibit a decline in her social functioning, and that this decline is less pronounced in high HRV. The second hypothesis is that if a FM patient feels disregarded by her partner, her emotional functioning will become inhibited; furthermore, that this relationship is moderated by her HRV. The third hypothesis is that when her partner feels he disregards her, her social functioning is impaired, and that this relationship is moderated by her HRV. The last hypothesis is that when her partner feels he disregards her, her emotional functioning declines, and that this relationship is moderated by HRV. The FM patient’s HRV was measured in a laboratory setting, and the partner disregard was measured by a partner survey that was administered to both the FM patient and her partner. Through the analysis of all of the results, none of the four hypotheses had significant results showing that none of them were supported by this experiment.