Melbourne School of Psychological Sciences - Theses

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    Neighbourhood disadvantage and internalising symptoms in adolescents: the mediating role of stressful life events, temperament, and maternal aggression
    SPEAR, OWEN ( 2013)
    Purpose of the study: Disadvantaged neighbourhoods are associated with increased risk for anxiety and depression in adolescents. However the mechanisms for this relationship are not fully understood. Using a longitudinal design, I investigated whether several potential mediators, including stressful life events, maternal aggressive, dysphoric and positive behaviour, and adolescent temperament (Surgency, Negative affectivity, Effortful Control, Affiliation), could help explain the relationship between neighbourhood disadvantage and symptoms of anxiety and depression in early- to mid-adolescence. Method: A community sample of 245 adolescents and their parents participated in a range of assessments at baseline (age approximately 12-13 years old), including an observational assessment of parent-adolescent interactions, and a battery of adolescent-rated questionnaires. Neighbourhood disadvantage was assessed by combining Postal Area data collected during this first wave of assessment with a measure of disadvantage called the Socio-Economic Indexes For Areas (SEIFA) developed by the Australian Bureau of Statistics Adolescents were followed-up approximately 4 years later and completed questionnaires assessing depressive and anxious symptoms. Results: Analyses revealed that adolescents from disadvantaged neighbourhoods were more likely to report a greater number of stressful life events, and depressive and anxious symptoms. They were also more likely to score higher on temperament measures of Negative Affectivity, and lower on measures of Surgency and Effortful control. Mothers from disadvantaged neighbourhoods were more likely to display aggressive and dysphoric behaviour for longer periods, and positive behaviour for shorter periods, however no differences were detected in regard to the frequency of these behaviours. Mediational analyses using a bootsrapping approach determined that stressful life events and three temperament dimensions (low Surgency, low Effortful Control, high Negative Affectivity) significantly mediated the relationship between neighbourhood disadvantage and symptoms of anxiety and depression at baseline. Stressful life events and maternal aggression significantly mediated the relationship between neighbourhood disadvantage and change in depressive and anxious symptoms from baseline to follow-up. Conclusion: The research reported in this thesis provides evidence that disadvantaged neighbourhoods differ from less disadvantaged neighbourhoods in several different ways. In addition, various factors were found to partially mediate the relationship between neighbourhood disadvantage and anxiety and depression at different periods during adolescence. Temperament appears to be important earlier in adolescence, maternal affective behaviour seems to be important during mid- to later-adolescence, while stressful life events appear to act throughout adolescence. These findings suggest that the neighbourhood environment is likely to influence adolescents both directly, and indirectly through its effects on more proximal and individual risk factors. It was concluded that prevention and intervention programs targeting a range of risk factors in adolescents from disadvantaged neigbourhoods could be particularly effective at reducing the prevalence of internalising disorders in adolescents.
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    Getting to the heart of teen depression: the relationship between depression and cardiovascular risk in adolescents during wakefulness and sleep
    Waloszek, Joanna Maria ( 2013)
    Depression has been identified as an independent cardiovascular risk factor in adults, where its presence results in higher rates of mortality and adverse cardiac events in patients with and without known cardiovascular disease (CVD). Recent literature suggests preclinical signs of cardiovascular risk are also present in adolescents experiencing depressive symptoms, however little is known about the effects of adolescent clinical depression on cardiovascular health. Moreover, no study has investigated the cardiovascular functioning of clinically depressed individuals during sleep, a state which involves cardiovascular changes including the characteristic decrease or ‘dip’ in blood pressure (BP). The aim of this study was to determine whether clinical depression is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease in otherwise healthy adolescents. Experiment One sought to examine cardiovascular functioning during quiet wakefulness. Participants (n = 889, 352 male) aged 12-18 years were recruited from Victorian secondary schools in the general community. Subsequent to completing mood questionnaires and clinical interviews, 50 eligible participants (25 [6 male] clinically depressed, 25 [6 male] control) took part in a morning cardiovascular assessment at the University of Melbourne. Variables assessed included automatic clinical and continuous beat-to-beat finger arterial BP, heart rate (HR), endothelial functioning, pulse transit time (PTT), as well as cholesterol, glucose and glycohaemoglobin levels. In addition, the cumulative risk of present modifiable risk factors such as smoking was calculated according to the Pathobiological Determinants of Atherosclerosis in Youth (PDAY) risk score, which has been shown to predict coronary calcification in young populations. It was predicted that, compared to controls, depressed adolescents would show evidence of a number of early pathophysiological processes. As hypothesised, between-group analyses revealed depressed adolescents had significantly poorer endothelial functioning, which resulted in decreased vasodilation, and shorter PTT suggesting deterioration in vascular integrity and structure. Depressed adolescents also presented with higher fasting glucose and higher triglyceride levels compared with controls. Furthermore, risk score calculations revealed significantly higher PDAY risk scores in the depressed group indicative of increased engagement in unhealthy behaviours and a higher probability of having advanced atherosclerotic lesions. Contrary to predictions however, no significant differences were found in BP or HR measurements. In order to have a more complete understanding of the cardiovascular health of depressed adolescents, Experiment Two was designed to asses BP and HR during sleep. The BP profile at sleep onset was of particular interest as a blunted decline in BP is associated with target organ damage and increased cardiovascular risk. A subgroup of female participants (8 clinically depressed, 10 control) who completed Experiment One also participated in an overnight cardiovascular assessment. Whole-night polysomnography was conducted with continuous beat-to-beat finger arterial BP and HR monitored via Portapres and ECG, respectively. Data were analysed as an average of the first 6 hours of sleep as well as 2-minute epochs of stable sleep averaged within sleep stages. Further analyses of 30-second epochs were averaged across the pre-sleep wakefulness and the first ≥5 minutes of continuous stable Stage 2 in the sleep onset period. Analyses revealed that although no significant group differences in BP or HR were found during morning wakefulness, depressed adolescents presented with higher systolic, diastolic and mean arterial BP across the whole night and across sleep stages. The difference between groups (~11 mmHg) was found to not only be statistically but also clinically significant. Depressed adolescents also displayed a blunted systolic BP decline at sleep onset compared with controls. This heightened nocturnal BP and blunted decline represent early changes in BP regulation and could be a preclinical marker for depressed adolescents at high risk of cardiovascular disease. A number of plausible mechanisms may explain the heightened BP including a failure to shift to parasympathetic dominance during sleep, increased cortisol levels as a result of a dysregulated hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical axis, and limited vasodilation at night due to endothelial dysfunction as found in Experiment One. Although the mechanisms are still unclear, the results suggest that depression has a significant adverse effect on the cardiovascular system in the early stages of life. Given that risk factors are known to continue to adulthood, the heightened nocturnal BP, increased triglyceride and vascular changes may increase risk for future cardiovascular problems such as hypertension. Identification of those at high-risk and intervention should therefore be actioned as early as adolescence as a way to decrease the prevalence and global burden of CVD.