Depression In Childhood Raises Red Flag For Future Heart Problems

Children with depression are more likely to be obese, smoke, and inactive, and may show signs of cardiac disease as early as their adolescence, according to a study.

According to a study released by Jonathan Rottenberg, Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of South Florida, and his colleagues at Washington University and the University of Pittsburgh, depression may raise the risk of heart problems later in life.

Heart disease also prevalent in parents of adolescents with childhood depression

The researchers also discovered greater rates of heart disease in the parents of depressive teenagers as children. The study was published online in Psychosomatic Medicine and will be included in the February 2014 issue of the medical publication.

“Given that the parents in this sample were relatively young, we were quite surprised to find that the parents of the affected adolescents were reporting a history of heart attacks and other serious events,” Rottenberg explained. Cardiologists and mental health specialists have known for a long time that there is a link between depression and heart disease. Depressed adults are more likely to have a heart attack, and if they do, it is more likely to be fatal.

Prevention and treatment of childhood depression could reduce adult cardiovascular disease

However, it was unclear when the link between clinical depression and cardiovascular risk emerges, or how early in life the link may be discovered. These findings imply that better prevention and treatment of childhood depression could lead to a reduction in adult cardiovascular disease. According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is the top cause of death for both men and women, accounting for one out of every four fatalities in the United States each year.

Rottenberg and his colleagues followed up on Hungarian youngsters who had taken part in a previous study on the genetics of depression in 2004. The researchers analysed three groups of adolescents’ heart disease risk factors, such as smoking, obesity, physical activity level, and parental history.

The researchers polled about 200 youngsters with a history of clinical depression, as well as roughly 200 of their siblings who had never experienced depression. They also collected data from over 150 unrelated youngsters of the same age and gender who had no history of depression.

Further research required to understand the link between childhood depression and heart disease

Rottenberg intends to do future studies to better understand why depression in childhood increases the risk of cardiovascular disease. Further research with the Hungarian group will look for early warning signals of cardiac disease in these teens as they enter young adulthood.

Story Source:
Materials provided by the University of South Florida (USF Health). Original written by Adam Freeman. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:
J. Rottenberg, I. Yaroslavsky, R. M. Carney, K. E. Freedland, C. J. George, I. Baji, R. Dochnal, J. Gadoros, K. Halas, K. Kapornai, E. Kiss, V. Osvath, H. Varga, A. Vetro, M. Kovacs. The Association Between Major Depressive Disorder in Childhood and Risk Factors for Cardiovascular Disease in Adolescence. Psychosomatic Medicine, 2014; DOI: 10.1097/PSY.0000000000000028

Page citation:
University of South Florida (USF Health). “Childhood depression may increase risk of heart disease by teen years.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 January 2014. <>.

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