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Depression and poor mental health linked to higher incidence of CVD in young adults

Rod Tucker
3 February, 2023  

Both depression and poor mental health days in young adults are associated with a higher risk of premature cardiovascular disease

Depression and poor mental health among young adults is more likely to lead to premature cardiovascular disease (CVD) and suboptimal cardiovascular health according to the findings of a large study of US adults by US and UK researchers.

A worrying trend over the past 20 years is the observed increase in the prevalence of recognised cardiovascular disease risk factors e.g., obesity, physical inactivity and a poor diet, among younger individuals in developed countries. Moreover, though not considered as a traditional CVD risk factor, the American Heart Association accepts that depression should be considered as a risk factor for adverse outcomes in patients with acute coronary syndrome. But to what extent does the presence of depression or even poor mental health, affect the risk of CVD among younger adults was the subject of the current study.

Researchers used data from the behavioural risk factor surveillance system which includes a nationally representative sample of non-institutionalised adults. The system assesses health-related risk behaviours and chronic health conditions, based on an annual telephone survey. The research team collected data on self-reported depression and poor mental health days (PMHDs), as well as CVD and suboptimal cardiovascular (CV) health, based on recognised risk factors, e.g., smoking, physical inactivity. In addition, self-reported PMHDs were categorised as 0, 1 – 13 or 14 to 30.

Depression and risk of premature cardiovascular disease
In total, data were collected from 593,616 with a mean age of 34.7 years (50.3% male).

The prevalence of depression was 19.6% and 2.5% for CVD. The researchers calculated that those with depression had a much higher odds of CVD compared to those without the condition (odds ratio, OR = 2.32, 95% CI 2.13 – 2.51). There was also a graded increased risk of CVD, depending on the number of reported PMHDs rising from an odds ratio of 1.48 (1 to 13 days) to 2.29 (14 to 30 days). These estimates were unaffected by gender or individual’s status (rural or urban). Suboptimal cardiovascular health was also higher among those with depression (OR = 1.79) and a similar graded relationship observed based on the number of PMHDs.

The authors concluded that based on their findings, prioritising mental health might help to reduce CVD risk and improve cardiovascular health in young adults.

Kwapong YA et al. Association of Depression and Poor Mental Health With Cardiovascular Disease and Suboptimal Cardiovascular Health Among Young Adults in the United States. J Am Heart Assoc 2023