JAN 24, 2024 9:00 AM PST

Childhood Stress Linked to Obesity, Diabetes, High Blood Pressure

WRITTEN BY: Savannah Logan

New research published in the Journal of the American Heart Association indicates that young adults who report more stress throughout their adolescence have a greater chance of developing cardiometabolic risk factors such as obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure.

The 18-year prospective study included 276 participants from the Southern California Children’s Health Study. Perceived stress for the participants was reported by their parents during early childhood (when the mean age of the participants was about 6 years old), and stress was self-reported by the participants during adolescence (around 13 years old) and young adulthood (around 24 years old). Participants were groups into four categories based on their stress levels: consistently high, decreasing, increasing, and consistently low. In young adulthood, the participant’s cardiometabolic risk was assessed using a variety of factors, including measurements of blood pressure, percent body fat, obesity, and more. The goal of the study was to see how perceived stress affects the development of cardiometabolic risk.

The results showed that participants who experienced consistently high stress levels were at greater risk of cardiometabolic diseases by the time they reached young adulthood. Those who experienced rising stress were also at greater risk, including worse vascular health, more body fat, and higher risk of obesity compared to those who experienced less stress over time.

The authors noted that they were surprised by the consistency of the patterns they observed. While they expected stress levels to have an impact on cardiometabolic risk, the association was very consistent across risk factors. Because of this, measuring perceived stress may be an important tool for identifying those who have potential for high cardiometabolic risk. Additionally, addressing and managing stress during childhood may help prevent the development of future health problems such as diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.

Sources: Journal of the American Heart Association, Science Daily

About the Author
Doctorate (PhD)
Savannah (she/her) is a scientific writer specializing in cardiology at Labroots. Her background is in medical writing with significant experience in obesity, oncology, and infectious diseases. She has conducted research in microbial biophysics, optics, and education. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Oregon.
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