Childhood depression is associated with inactivity, smoking, and obesity and can influence heart disease as early as the teenage years.
The new study by researchers at the University of South Florida, Washington University, and the University of Pittsburgh, suggests that childhood depression may increase the risk of heart problems later in life.
In the study, USF’s Jonathan Rottenberg, Ph.D., and colleagues also observed higher rates of heart disease in the parents of adolescents who had been depressed as children.
The research is published online in Psychosomatic Medicine and will be included in the medical journal’s February 2014 issue.
“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 professionals have long known a link exists between depression and heart disease. Depressed adults are more likely to suffer a heart attack, and if they do have a heart attack, it’s more likely to be fatal.
However it was unclear when the association between clinical depression and cardiac risk develops, or how early in life the association can be detected.
These findings suggest improved prevention and treatment of childhood depression could reduce adult cardiovascular disease.
“Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women- accounting for one in every four deaths in the United States every year,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
During the study, Rottenberg and his colleagues followed up on Hungarian children who had participated in a 2004 study of the genetics of depression.
The researchers compared heart disease risk factors–such as smoking, obesity, physical activity level, and parental history – across three categories of adolescents.
The investigators surveyed more than 200 children with a history of clinical depression, as well as about 200 of their siblings who have never suffered from depression.
They also gathered information from more than 150 unrelated children of the same age and gender with no history of depression.
Rottenberg plans to conduct additional research in order to understand why depression early in life may put people at increased risk for cardiovascular disease.
Further studies planned with the Hungarian group will also examine whether any early warning signs of heart disease are present as these adolescents move into young adulthood.
Source: University of South Florida