Objective: Psychosocial adversity is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease (CVD) in adults. We assessed associations of reactive hyperemia peripheral arterial tonometry (RH-PAT) – a measure of endothelial function predictive of CVD – with self-assessed psychological health among school children.
Methods: A total of 248 healthy school children (age 14.0±1.0 136 girls, 112 boys) underwent RH-PAT testing. They completed Beck Youth Inventories of Emotional and Social Impairment scales (BYI), used to screen for depression, anxiety, anger and disruptive behaviour.
Results: No sex differences were observed for the RH-PAT score. Statistically significant differences were observed for the BYI scores; girls had higher scores for depression, anger and anxiety. Among girls there were statistically significant associations between lower RH-PAT scores and higher scores for anger (B coefficient = -0.100, p=0.040), depression (-0.108, p=0.009) and anxiety (-0.138, p=0.039), after adjustment for age. Among boys, disruptive behaviour was associated with higher RH-PAT scores (0.09, p=0.006).
Conclusions: Girls have higher levels of self assessed anger; depression and anxiety compared with boys, and these characteristics are associated with lower RH-PAT scores, indicating attenuated endothelial function. Among boys, disruptive behaviour was associated with better endothelial function. As psychological ill-health is associated with impaired endothelial function and CVD among adults, such processes may also be relevant to children. Psychosocial adversity in childhood might be a risk factor for subsequent CVD.