2 Citations (Scopus)


AIMS: The autonomic nervous system includes parasympathetic and sympathetic components that monitor and regulate most of the bodily functions and play a central role in the physiology and homeostasis of the human body. Heart rate variability is a non-invasive tool for quantification of rhythmic fluctuations in heart rate that reflects the function of the autonomic nervous system. The study aims to describe the heart rate variability distribution in the general population, stratified in sex and age groups, which is currently insufficiently described.

METHODS: A cross-sectional population-based study recruited participants in 10 municipalities in the western part of the greater Copenhagen area in Denmark, including 6891 men and women aged 18-72 years (participation rate was 29.5%). Short-term heart rate variability measures were obtained and related to age and gender.

RESULTS: Both time and frequency domain measures showed a huge variation in the different sex and age groups. Women had a higher median heart rate than men, and the association with age was U-shaped. Measures indicating a predominance of the parasympathetic component in relation to the sympathetic component were more frequent in women and younger age groups.

CONCLUSIONS: Both sex and age influence the heart rate variability in this adult Danish population. Therefore, our age- and sex-related reference values of heart rate variability in the time and frequency domain should be used in further epidemiological and clinical research.

Original languageEnglish
Book seriesScandinavian Journal of Public Health. Supplement
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)48-57
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2024


  • Autonomic nervous system
  • cross-sectional population-based study
  • epidemiology
  • heart rate variability
  • normative values


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