Childhood Psychological Stress Linked to Higher Risks for Heart Disease and Diabetes As Adults, Harvard & UCSF Study Shows

A 45-year study of nearly 7,000 people born in a single week in Great Britain in 1958 found that psychological distress in childhood -- even when conditions improved in adulthood -- was associated with higher risk for heart disease and diabetes later in life. The study, published in the October 6, 2015 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, looked at information related to stress and mental health collected on participants in the 1958 British Birth Cohort Study at ages 7, 11, 16, 23, 33, and 42. Researchers also collected data for nine biological indicators at age 45, using information from blood samples and blood pressure measures to create a score indicating risk for heart disease and diabetes, known as the cardiometabolic risk score, for each. The article is titled “Psychological Stress Across the Life Course and Cardiometabolic Risk.” The article includes an audio commentary and is accompanied by a related editorial. The study found that people with persistent distress throughout their lives had the highest cardiometabolic risk score relative to participants who reported low levels of distress throughout childhood and adulthood. Using the same comparison group, participants with high levels of distress occurring primarily in childhood, and those with high levels of distress occurring primarily in adulthood also exhibited higher cardiometabolic risk. The estimated risk for cardiometabolic disease for people with persistent distress through to middle adulthood was higher than risk commonly observed for people who are overweight in childhood.
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