Contact: Karen Matthews, PhD
For Release: March 1, 2019
Boys who reported feeling the symptoms of depression most often when they were 7 to 16 years old were significantly more likely than peers to smoke cigarettes by their early 30s, and to be smoking heavily, shows a new study on how childhood depression may predict adult health. Boys with higher depression symptom scores also ate fewer fruits and vegetables in adulthood, but this could be partly chalked up to lower socioeconomic status (SES).
Although depression is known to raise the risk for heart disease in adults, there’s sparse research on how childhood depression may predict the development of unhealthy habits or heart disease later on. The new study is published in the February-March issue of Psychosomatic Medicine, journal of the American Psychosomatic Society.
In the first part of the study, 311 boys were given questionnaires asking if descriptions of 13 depression symptoms were true of them, sometimes true or not true at all. For example, did they feel miserable or unhappy, did they not enjoy anything at all or feel so tired they just sat around and did nothing. The boys filled out the questionnaires every year from ages 7 to 16. Researchers also had information about the SES of their families.
In the follow-up, researchers were able to test 265 of the participants when they were in their early 30s, measuring levels of inflammation and also checking to see if they had developed Metabolic Syndrome, a cluster of conditions such as high blood pressure and blood sugar, too much fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol levels. Both inflammation and Metabolic Syndrome raise the risk of heart disease. Neither was linked to depression symptoms in boyhood, reports lead study author Karen Matthews, PhD, Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry, Professor of Epidemiology, Psychology & Clinical and Translational Science at University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.
But by age 32 the men who had reported the most signs of depression as boys were significantly more likely than the least depressed to be smoking– and smoking heavily, says Matthews. Although they also ate fewer fruits and vegetables, an independent link with boyhood depression symptoms didn’t remain when SES was considered. People of higher SES eat more produce. “There’s a lot of research showing that depressed people smoke more and eat more poorly,” says Matthews.
The American Psychosomatic Society (APS) (www.psychosomatic.org), founded in 1943, is an international multidisciplinary academic society that organizes an annual scientific meeting and educational programs. Psychosomatic Medicine is its scientific journal. The membership of over 700 is composed of academic scientists and clinicians in medicine, psychiatry, epidemiology, health psychology and allied health services. The mission of the APS is “to advance and integrate the scientific study of biological, psychological, behavioral and social factors in health and disease.”