Methods: A review of computerized databases was performed using Medline and BioMed Central from 1950 - 2013 to identify articles that examined autonomic function and depression/MDD, particularly those focusing on their impact on cardiovascular health. Articles pertaining to the foregoing topic were selected for review. Seven hundred and thirty seven articles were screened, 89 met criteria for inclusion. Additional cross references were checked.
Result: Three large scale epidemiological studies were identified; their results suggest that autonomic dysfunction (AD) is consistently present among individuals experiencing depressive symptoms and/or diagnosed with MDD. Moreover, AD is implicated with elevated risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD) and associated mortality. Additionally, studies were found that showed AD is present in context of depression across the life span, though some sex differences were observed. The role of antidepressants in ameliorating AD associated with MDD showed mixed results.
Conclusion: Autonomic dysfunction is a marker of depression, it can be measured in the clinic as well as in the laboratory. Autonomic dysfunction among individuals experiencing depressive symptoms and/or diagnosed with MDD may represent a biomarker for a subpopulation at increased risk of developing CVD.