Teens who were depressed as children are more likely to be obese, to smoke
and to be sedentary, a new study finds.
The findings suggest that depression during childhood can increase the risk
of heart problems later in life, according to the researchers.
The study included more than 500 children who were followed from ages nine to
16. There were three groups: those diagnosed with depression as children, their
depression-free siblings and a control group of unrelated youngsters with no
history of depression.
Twenty-two percent of the kids who were depressed at age nine were obese at age 16, the study
found. "Only 17% of their siblings were obese, and the obesity rate was 11% in
the unrelated children who never had been depressed," study first author Robert
Carney, a professor of psychiatry at Washington University School of Medicine in
St Louis, said in a university news release.
The researchers found similar patterns when they looked at smoking and
"A third of those who were depressed as children had become daily smokers,
compared to 13% of their non-depressed siblings and only 2.5% of the control
group," Carney said.
'Cause for concern'
Teens who had been depressed as children were the least physically active,
their siblings were a bit more active and those in the control group were the
most active, according to the study, which is scheduled for presentation Friday
at the annual meeting of the American Psychosomatic Society in Miami.
Although the study showed an association between childhood depression and
obesity, smoking habits and inactivity later in life, it did not prove a
These findings are cause for concern because "a number of recent studies have
shown that when adolescents have these cardiac risk factors, they're much more
likely to develop heart disease as adults and even to have a shorter life span,"
"Active smokers as adolescents are twice as likely to die by the age of 55
than nonsmokers, and we see similar risks with obesity, so finding this link
between childhood depression and these risk factors suggests that we need to
very closely monitor young people who have been depressed," he said.
Data and conclusions presented at meetings are typically considered
preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.
The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about depression
in children and teens.