Depressed kids more likely to have heart risks as teens

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Depression in children linked to heart risk behaviors in adolescence.
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Children who suffer depression could face heart risks in their teens, finds a study that comes from scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and the University of Pittsburgh.

Depression can impact heart health for adults, but researchers for the study say kids who are depressed can become sedentary, obese teens who are also more likely to smoke. Those unhealthy habits can lead to cardiovascular disease in adulthood and shorter lifespan, shown in past studies.

The findings, presented March 15 at the annual meeting of the American Psychosomatic Society in Miami, Fla., are “worrisome”, Robert M. Carney, PhD, a professor of psychiatry at Washington University said in a press release.

Smoking, obesity in adolescence linked to early death

“Active smokers as adolescents are twice as likely to die by the age of 55 as nonsmokers, and we see similar risks with obesity, so finding this link between childhood depression and these risk factors suggests that we need to very closely monitor young people who have been depressed.”

In the study that included 201 children with clinical depression and 195 of their siblings without depression, 22 percent of kids who were depressed were also obese by age 16.

The investigation also included 161 gender, but not age matched children without depression whose data was analyzed.

Carney explained, “Only 17 percent of their siblings were obese, and the obesity rate was 11 percent in the unrelated children who never had been depressed.”

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Thirty-three percent of depressed kids became smokers in adolescence, compared to 13 percent of their siblings without depression.

Teens who had been depressed as children were also the most sedentary. The control group was the most active and had the lowest rates of smoking.

Siblings of depressed children were more likely to smoke than the control group, but less likely than teenagers with a history of the mental health disorder.

At the time of the study the children were around age 9. Researchers surveyed the group again at around age 16; in 2011.

When the researchers factored in other lifestyle contributors to obesity, smoking and inactivity, they found the most significant to be childhood depression, even for teens who were no longer depressed.

Carney says depression among kids seems to be an important, if not causal risk for heart disease, because if seems to come first.

He says there may be other factors including genetic influences that promote these types of cardiac risk factor behaviors, but until more studies are done, no firm conclusions can be drawn.

Washington University in Saint Louis
March 15, 2013

Image credit: Morguefile

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