Objectives: The literature on childhood-onset depression and future compromised vascular function is suggestive but limited. The objective of this study was to determine if arterial stiffness, a predictor of future cardiovascular disease (CVD), measured in young adulthood, is associated with childhood-onset depression.

Methods: Cardiometabolic risk factors and pulse wave velocity (PWV), a measure of arterial stiffness, were cross-sectionally assessed in young adults with a history of childhood-onset depression (clinical diagnosis of major depressive episode or dysthymic disorder; N = 294 probands; initially recruited via child mental health facilities across Hungary; mean age of first depressive episode = 10.4 years), their never-depressed full biological siblings (N = 269), and never-depressed controls (N = 169). The mean ages of probands, siblings, and controls at the PWV visit were 25.6, 25.0, and 21.7 years, respectively, and 8.8% of the probands were in a current depressive episode. Results: Controlling for age, sex, age*sex, education, and family clusters, PWV (m/s) did not statistically differ across the groups (probands = 7.01; siblings = 6.98; controls = 6.81). However, after adjusting for key covariates, there were several across-group differences in CVD risk factors: compared to controls, probands and siblings had higher diastolic blood pressure and lower high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, probands had higher triglycerides, and siblings had higher body mass index (all p < 0.05).

Conclusion: We found limited evidence of an association between a history of childhood-onset depression and young adulthood arterial stiffness. However, our findings of elevated cardiovascular risk factors in those with childhood-onset depression suggest that pediatric depression may predispose to increased CVD risk later in life and warrants further investigation. 

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