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Open Access Research

Quality of life, emotion regulation, and heart rate variability in individuals with intellectual disabilities and concomitant impaired vision

Adrian Meule1*, Katharina Fath2, Ruben GL Real1, Stefan Sütterlin34, Claus Vögele34 and Andrea Kübler15

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Psychology I, Institute of Psychology, University of Wuerzburg, Marcusstr. 9-11, 97070 Wuerzburg, Germany

2 Blindeninstitut, Ohmstr. 7, 97076, Wuerzburg, Germany

3 Research Unit INSIDE, Université du Luxembourg, Route de Diekirch – BP2, L-7220, Walferdange, Luxembourg

4 Research Group on Health Psychology, University of Leuven, Tiensestraat 102, B-3000, Leuven, Belgium

5 Institute of Medical Psychology and Behavioural Neurobiology, University of Tübingen, Gartenstr. 29, 72074, Tuebingen, Germany

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Psychology of Well-Being: Theory, Research and Practice 2013, 3:1  doi:10.1186/2211-1522-3-1

Published: 27 March 2013

Abstract

Background

Positive associations have been found between quality of life, emotion regulation strategies, and heart rate variability (HRV) in people without intellectual disabilities. However, emotion regulation and HRV have rarely been investigated in people with intellectual disabilities. Assessment of subjectively reported quality of life and emotion regulation strategies in this population is even more difficult when participants are also visually impaired.

Methods

Subjective and objective quality of life, emotion regulation strategies, and HRV at rest were measured in a sample of people with intellectual disabilities and concomitant impaired vision (N = 35). Heart rate was recorded during a 10 min resting period. For the assessment of quality of life and emotion regulation, custom made tactile versions of questionnaire-based instruments were used that enabled participants to grasp response categories.

Results

The combined use of reappraisal and suppression as emotion regulation strategies was associated with higher HRV and quality of life. HRV was associated with objective quality of life only. Emotion regulation strategies partially mediated the relationship between HRV and quality of life.

Conclusions

Results replicate findings about associations between quality of life, emotion regulation, and HRV and extend them to individuals with intellectual disabilities. Furthermore, this study demonstrated that quality of life and emotion regulation could be assessed in such populations even with concomitant impaired vision with modified tactile versions of established questionnaires. HRV may be used as a physiological index to evaluate physical and affective conditions in this population.

Keywords:
Quality of life; Emotion regulation; Heart rate variability; Cardiac autonomic regulation; Intellectual disability; Impaired vision