Researchers have found that favorable psychosocial factors in youth may benefit the cardiovascular (CV) health of individuals later in life.
“This … suggests that targeting psychosocial factors might facilitate attainment of the [American Heart Association (AHA)] goal to improve population health by 2020,” the researchers wrote.
In the study, which was published in Circulation, researchers from Finland and the United States used the new metric of ideal CV health defined by AHA’s 2020 Impact Goals to examine whether psychosocial factors in youth predict ideal CV health in adulthood.
The researchers assessed 1,089 participants in the nationwide Cardiovascular Risk in Young Finns Study. At baseline, patients were aged 3 to 18 years, and CV health was examined 27 years later. The psychosocial factors evaluated included socioeconomic and emotional factors, parental health behaviors, stressful events, self-regulation and social adjustment of the child, according to study methodology.
Researchers observed a positive correlation between an increased number of favorable psychosocial factors in youth and a greater ideal CV health index in adulthood (Beta=0.16; P<.001). This relationship remained after adjustment for age, sex, medication use and CV risk factors in childhood (Beta=0.15; P<.001).
Further, each increment in favorable psychosocial factors yielded an improvement in CV health.
The psychosocial factors that were the strongest predictors of ideal CV health in adulthood were favorable socioeconomic environment (Beta=0.12; P<.001) and patients’ self-regulatory behavior (Beta=0.07; P=.004).
“Socioeconomic factors and self-regulative behavior independently predicted adult ideal cardiovascular health,” the researchers wrote. “… Identifying these specific factors as predictors of future health may be useful for early prevention, as some of them (e.g., child’s self-regulation ability) may be amenable to modification. However, the novel finding is that a combination of multiple psychosocial influences may have an influence on future cardiovascular health.”
In further analysis, favorable psychosocial factors were linked with a greater likelihood of having a leaner BMI (OR=1.14; P<.001) and being a nonsmoker (OR=1.12; P<0.001). An improved glucose level (OR=1.11; P<.001) was also observed among those with favorable psychosocial factors.
Study limitations of note, according to the researchers, included that psychosocial factors were not the focus of the study; the considerable amount of attrition that occurred during the 27-year follow-up; and that psychosocial factors were comprised of dichotomous components summed together.