A study conducted by researchers at Washington University’s School of Medicine in St. Louis suggests that children diagnosed with depression at a young age are more inclined to develop cardiac problems later in life.
They say that children diagnosed with depression can increase the risk of heart problems as adults; and teens who were depressed as children are more likely to become obese, smoke cigarettes and lead sedentary lives, as opposed to their peers.
The study also found that individuals who were diagnosed with depression by age nine, are more likely to become smokers by the time they reached 16 or 17 years of age.
Professor of psychiatry Dr. Robert Carney says that by the time an individual becomes a teenager, and then into adulthood, there are significant associations between depression and cardiovascular risk factors. “So, a 30-year-old adult for example, is more likely to be overweight if he or she is depressed; and are more likely to become a smoker,” Carney said. “They had a higher tendency toward obesity and tend to engage in more sedentary activities than their siblings who were not depressed, as well as comparing them to non-depressed, unrelated adolescents that are about the same age.”
He says that 22 percent of children diagnosed with depression by age 9, became obese by age 16. Carney says diagnosing young children with major depression is unusual. “You don’t typically see depression that young, but we wanted to see how far back the association between depression and cardiovascular risk factors might go,” Carney said.
Such risk factors include smoking at a young age, obesity, and lack of physical activity. Individuals are also more likely to develop heart disease as adults and live a shorter lifespan. Carney says he is unsure how early the association begins.
AUDIO: Mary Farucci reports. (1:04)