Science

Depressed, anxious adolescents will likely get a heart attack by mid-age: Study

Prashasti Awasthi Mumbai | Updated on August 27, 2020

A total of 34,503 men were diagnosed with a non-psychotic mental disorder (such as depression or anxiety) at conscription.   -  Getty Images

A mental disorder in adolescence was associated with the risk of having a heart attack by middle age

According to a study presented at the ESC Congress 2020 titled ‘Non-psychotic mental disorders in adolescent men and risk of myocardial infarction: A national cohort study’, depression or anxiety in adolescence can contribute to heart diseases in mid-life.

The study suggested that there is a 20 per cent greater likelihood of having a heart attack in mid-life.

Study author Dr Cecilia Bergh of Örebro University in Sweden, said in a statement: “Be vigilant and look for signs of stress, depression or anxiety that is beyond the normal teenage angst: seek help if there seems to be a persistent problem (telephone helplines may be particularly helpful during the Covid-19 pandemic). If a healthy lifestyle is encouraged as early as possible in childhood and adolescence it is more likely to persist into adulthood and improve long-term health.”

The study investigated whether conditions like depression in adolescence (age 18 or 19) are associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease in adulthood.

The researchers also examined the possible role of stress resilience (ability to cope with stress in everyday life) to explain any associations.

The study was carried out on 238,013 men born between 1952 and 1956 who underwent extensive examinations in late adolescence (as part of their assessment for compulsory military service) and were then followed into middle age (up to the age of 58 years).

The assessments at the age of 18 or 19 years included medical, psychiatric, and physical examinations by physicians and psychologists.

A total of 34,503 men were diagnosed with a non-psychotic mental disorder (such as depression or anxiety) at conscription.

The study found that a mental disorder in adolescence was associated with the risk of having a myocardial infarction (heart attack) by middle age.

The risk of myocardial infarction

The research also noted that the risk of myocardial infarction was 20 per cent higher among men with a diagnosis - even after taking into account other characteristics in adolescence such as blood pressure, body mass index, general health, and parental socioeconomic status.

The association between mental illness and heart attack was partly — but not completely — explained by poorer stress resilience and lower physical fitness in teenagers with a mental illness.

“We already knew that men who were physically fit in adolescence seem less likely to maintain fitness in later years if they have low-stress resilience,” said Dr Bergh.

“Our previous research has also shown that low-stress resilience is also coupled with a greater tendency towards addictive behaviour, signalled by higher risks of smoking, alcohol consumption, and other drug use,” Bergh concluded.

Published on August 27, 2020

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