Published online by Cambridge University Press: 12 January 2021
Clarifying the relationship between depression symptoms and cardiometabolic and related health could clarify risk factors and treatment targets. The objective of this study was to assess whether depression symptoms in midlife are associated with the subsequent onset of cardiometabolic health problems.
The study sample comprised 787 male twin veterans with polygenic risk score data who participated in the Harvard Twin Study of Substance Abuse (‘baseline’) and the longitudinal Vietnam Era Twin Study of Aging (‘follow-up’). Depression symptoms were assessed at baseline [mean age 41.42 years (s.d. = 2.34)] using the Diagnostic Interview Schedule, Version III, Revised. The onset of eight cardiometabolic conditions (atrial fibrillation, diabetes, erectile dysfunction, hypercholesterolemia, hypertension, myocardial infarction, sleep apnea, and stroke) was assessed via self-reported doctor diagnosis at follow-up [mean age 67.59 years (s.d. = 2.41)].
Total depression symptoms were longitudinally associated with incident diabetes (OR 1.29, 95% CI 1.07–1.57), erectile dysfunction (OR 1.32, 95% CI 1.10–1.59), hypercholesterolemia (OR 1.26, 95% CI 1.04–1.53), and sleep apnea (OR 1.40, 95% CI 1.13–1.74) over 27 years after controlling for age, alcohol consumption, smoking, body mass index, C-reactive protein, and polygenic risk for specific health conditions. In sensitivity analyses that excluded somatic depression symptoms, only the association with sleep apnea remained significant (OR 1.32, 95% CI 1.09–1.60).
A history of depression symptoms by early midlife is associated with an elevated risk for subsequent development of several self-reported health conditions. When isolated, non-somatic depression symptoms are associated with incident self-reported sleep apnea. Depression symptom history may be a predictor or marker of cardiometabolic risk over decades.