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Master of Science (MS)
Psychology (Arts and Sciences)
Date of Defense
First Committee Member
Patrice G. Saab
Second Committee Member
Maria M. Llabre
Third Committee Member
Alan M. Delamater
The associations between psychological factors, such as depressive symptoms, perceived stress, and anxiety, and C-reactive protein (CRP) and aerobic fitness were investigated in a sample of adolescents at risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD) due to their elevated blood pressure (BP) status. Symptoms of psychological distress have been associated with increased expression of inflammatory markers in adults, but relatively few studies have examined this relationship in adolescents. Evidence linking psychological factors and objectively measured aerobic fitness is less well-established across the lifespan. Levels of depressive symptomatology, perceived stress, and social anxiety, as well as plasma concentrations of CRP and maximal oxygen uptake, were measured in 146 ethnically diverse adolescents. Results of multiple regression analyses indicated that anthropometric measures, such as waist circumference and sagittal diameter, were positively associated with CRP after controlling for demographic variables, but not psychological factors. However, regression analyses revealed that, for aerobic fitness, depressive symptomatology contributed approximately 3% of the variance, perceived stress contributed 1% of the variance, and social anxiety contributed about 2% of the variance above and beyond demographic control variables and waist circumference (p’s < .05). The findings suggest that psychological factors may be associated with aerobic fitness levels, but not inflammation, in adolescents with elevated BP. This relationship may be bidirectional such that youth exhibiting depressive and anxious symptomatology may be less likely to exercise and be fit, or alternatively, that improved aerobic fitness is protective against the consequences of perceived stress and psychological symptoms. Physical activity promotion may reduce adolescents’ cardiovascular risk through several mechanisms, including improved aerobic fitness, weight reduction, and stress management, while also improving adolescents’ mental health outcomes.
Cardiovascular risk in adolescents; Psychological distress; C-reactive protein; aerobic fitness
Etzel, Erin N., "Psychological Factors in Adolescents at Risk for Cardiovascular Disease: Associations with Inflammation and Aerobic Fitness" (2012). Open Access Theses. 369.