More threads by David Baxter PhD

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
Childhood behaviors predict subsequent mood and anxiety disorders
24 October 2006

Childhood eating and sleep problems may predict adolescent mood and anxiety disorders, researchers have discovered.

"Because sleep and eating problems are common complaints and information on their severity and persistence can be readily elicited from parents, without relying on the use of actigraphy or polysomnography, health professionals should consider including parental accounts of children's sleep and eating patterns into their interview routine in their clinics," the team says.

Say How Ong (Institute of Mental Health, Singapore) and colleagues measured sleep and eating problems using the Dimensions of Temperament Survey (DOTS) in 164 children who were at high or low risk of major depression, depending on whether or not they had one parent with major depressive disorder. Assessments were carried out on three occasions over a 20-year period.

Irregularities in sleeping and eating schedules, suggesting low rhythmicity, were associated with adolescent-onset major depression. Eating irregularities were also linked to anxiety disorders, and high activity levels during sleep were associated with dysthymic disorder.

Specifically, sleep irregularities predicted adolescent-onset major depression and anxiety, with odds ratios of 1.3 and 2.7, respectively, while high activity level during sleep was predictive of both childhood-onset and adolescent-onset dysthymic disorder, with respective odds ratios of 1.4 and 1.6. Finally, eating irregularities predicted childhood-onset anxiety, with an odds ratio of 1.5.

The researchers note in the Journal of Affective Disorders that low sleep rhythmicity, high activity during sleep, and low eating rhythmicity were not associated with adult-onset depression or anxiety.

"Early childhood sleep and eating problems could? constitute an expression of an underlying vulnerability of offspring to psychiatric disorders," they write.

"An increased awareness in the possibility of developing mood and anxiety disorders later in life could help pave the way for more appropriate assessment, closer monitoring, and timely intervention for the more at-risk children."

The team concludes: "Future research could further address the possibility of reducing these biological risks of mood and anxiety disorders in at-risk children through regularization of sleep and eating schedules, daily life routines, and physical activities."

Source: J Affect Disord 2006; 96: 1?8
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