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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter March 14, 2015

Endothelial dysfunction and negative emotions in adolescent girls

  • Kathleen Pajer EMAIL logo , Robert Hoffman , William Gardner , Chien-Ni Chang , David Boley and Wei Wang


Background: Endothelial dysfunction predicts adult cardiovascular disorder and may be associated with negative emotions in adolescents. This study was conducted to determine if hopelessness, hostility, and depressive, anxiety, or conduct disorders were associated with compromised endothelial function and whether those associations were mediated by health risk behaviors.

Methods: Endothelial function, assessed through brachial artery reactive hyperemia, was measured in a psychopathology enriched sample of 60 15–18-year-old girls. The correlations between hopelessness, hostility, and depressive, anxiety, or conduct disorders and the percent change in forearm vascular resistance (PCFVR) were measured. Possible mediation effects of health risk behaviors were tested.

Results: Hopelessness was negatively associated with PCFVR, controlling for race and body mass index. Conduct disorder without any anxiety disorder was associated with better endothelial function. The other negative emotions were not associated with PCFVR. Risky health behaviors were associated with conduct disorder and hopelessness, but not with PCFVR, so there was no evidence of mediation.

Conclusion: The main finding was that hopelessness in adolescent girls was associated with endothelial dysfunction. This may indicate that when present, hopelessness places a girl at risk for later cardiovascular disease, whether she has a psychiatric disorder or not. Possible mechanisms for this finding are examined and the surprising finding that conduct disorder is associated with better endothelial function is also discussed. Suggestions for future research are presented.

Corresponding author: Kathleen Pajer, Professor of Psychiatry, University of Ottawa Faculty of Medicine, Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) Chief, Department of Psychiatry, 401 Smyth Road Ottawa, ON K1H 8L1 Canada, Phone: 613 737-7600 x2723, Fax: 613 737-2257, E-mail:


The authors thank the nurses of the Ohio State University GCRC and the participants for their contributions to this work. This study was supported by the National Institute of Mental Health (1R01MH066003-01A1; Pajer-PI), the National Institutes of Health (2M01RR000034-42, General Clinical Research Center, Ohio State University), and the Research Institute of Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Columbus, OH (Pilot study funds; Pajer-PI). No funding source had any influence on the study or the manuscript preparation.


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Received: 2014-11-5
Accepted: 2015-1-1
Published Online: 2015-3-14
Published in Print: 2016-5-1

©2016 by De Gruyter

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