Depression in teenagers is often mistaken for adolescent mood swings. When a teen experiences extended periods of hopelessness, lack of motivation or difficulty sleeping, these are signs that depression is taking root. A recent study found that depression during childhood is connected with inactivity, obesity, smoking and the development of heart disease, even during adolescence.
The study was conducted by a team of researchers from the University of South Florida, Washington University and the University of Pittsburgh. Their findings show that depression during childhood may increase the likelihood that a person will develop heart problems.
Parents Of Depressed Kids Also Have Increased Heart Problems
Led by USF’s Jonathan Rottenbergh, Ph.D., the researchers found that there was also an elevated rate of heart disease among parents who had adolescents with a childhood diagnosis of depression.
Rottenbergh says that the evidence that parents of depressed children had higher rates of heart disease came as a surprise, particularly because the parents were relatively young.
The authors note that there has long been a connection between depression and heart disease. When adults are depressed they are more likely to have fatal heart attacks. The findings did not, however, provide information about when the connection between clinical depression and cardiac risk develops, or when it can begin to be measured in patients.
Findings Indicate Importance Of Early Detection And Prevention Of Childhood Depression
The findings highlight the importance of prevention and early detection when it comes to childhood depression. Identifying children at risk for developing depression could also help prevent heart disease.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says heart disease causes one in every four deaths in the United States, making it the leading cause of death for both men and women.
The research team contacted Hungarian children that had participated in a 2004 study that examined the genetic influence of depression. They followed up with 200 children that were diagnosed with depression, in addition to approximately 200 siblings of the children that had never met criteria for depression. The researchers also included data from 150 unrelated participants that were the same gender and age but had no history of depression, analyzing the risk factors that contribute to heart disease, including smoking, physical activity level, obesity and parental history.
The findings provided evidence that there is an increased risk of heart disease for those that have a history of childhood depression, as well as an increased risk of heart disease for their parents.
The researchers intend to continue exploring possible reasons for this connection. In addition, the researchers intend to conduct a follow-up with the Hungarian sample to determine whether there are early warning signs of heart disease as the participants transition to young adulthood.
The findings highlight the importance of prevention and early intervention among children who exhibit signs of depression. Developing a strategy to reduce symptoms can not only impact the child’s quality of life on a more immediate basis, but it can also ensure that the child’s risk for heart disease is not elevated as they grow older.
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