Depression, stress and vascular function from childhood to adolescence: A longitudinal investigation

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Background: Psychological distress is associated with risk markers for cardiovascular disease, including increased arterial stiffness and high blood pressure, but it's unclear when these first manifest. This study aims to investigate the effect of psychosocial stress and depression on arterial stiffness and blood pressure in a cohort study of Australian children followed through to adolescence. Method: Depression and psychosocial stress in 520 young people (265 boys; M age = 11.6 y) were assessed via the Children's Depression Inventory and Children's Stress Questionnaire respectively. Carotid-femoral pulse wave velocity was assessed using applanation tonometry, with further assessments of supine brachial blood pressure and percent body fat (dual x-ray absorptiometry). All measures were repeated four years later at age 16-years. Results: We found no cross-sectional or longitudinal evidence that children self-reporting higher levels of psychosocial stress or depressive symptoms had greater arterial stiffness. Children reporting an increase in depressive symptoms had an increase in diastolic blood pressure and mean arterial pressure over time. An effect was also evident for pulse pressure, where higher pulse pressure was found in children with lower psychosocial stress at baseline and in children self-reporting a decrease in stress between baseline and follow-up. Conclusions: Findings from the current study contribute to the scant paediatric literature but only provide limited support for any influence of psychological factors on blood pressure. Depressive symptoms in apparently healthy adolescents may exert some influence on later risk for cardiovascular disease via increases in diastolic blood pressure and mean arterial pressure, but these effects were small.




Olive, L. S., Abhayaratna, W. P., Byrne, D., Telford, R. M., Berk, M., & Telford, R. D. (2020). Depression, stress and vascular function from childhood to adolescence: A longitudinal investigation. General Hospital Psychiatry, 62, 6–12.

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