Background and aims: The development of adolescence psychological health over a 3-year period and its relationship to peripheral endothelial function and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA)-axis activity were examined in a cohort of healthy adolescents in a longitudinal study.
Methods: A total of 162 adolescents (94 females) participated in both baseline (mean age 14.5 ± 1 years) and three-year follow-up studies. Psychological health was evaluated by self-report using the Beck Youth Inventories of Emotional and Social Impairment and the psychosomatic problem scale. Peripheral endothelial function was assessed using a peripheral artery tonometry device. The HPA-axis activity measured as cortisol awakening response (CAR) was assessed only at follow-up by collecting two saliva samples, immediately after awakening and 15 min later. Physical activity, smoking and parental education were assessed by questionnaires.
Results: Adolescents reported increased depression and decreased anger over three years, while only females reported increased psychosomatic complaints. Reduced peripheral endothelial function was associated with high level of anger (β = -0.332, p = 0.018) and disruptive behaviour (β = -0.390, p = 0.006) over three years in males, but not in females, after adjusting for covariates. Blunted cortisol awakening response was associated with high level of anxiety (β = -0.235, p = 0.017), depression (β = -0.203, p = 0.038), anger (β = -0.185, p = 0.048), and low level of self-concept (β = 0.289, p = 0.002) after adjusting for covariates.
Conclusions: High level of negative emotions during adolescence may have adverse effects on peripheral endothelial function and the regulation of the HPA-axis activity, while high level of self-concept might be protective.
Keywords: Adolescence; Cortisol awakening response; Negative emotional status; Peripheral endothelial function; Self-concept.
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