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Positive Attributes Protect Adolescents from Risk for the Metabolic Syndrome
Midei AJ and Matthews KM
Journal of Adolescent Health, 55: 678–683, 2014


The risk for cardiovascular disease develops as early as adolescence. In a recent study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, Dr. Karen Matthews and her mentee, Dr. Aimee Midei, sought to identify whether low levels of positive and high levels of negative emotions and attitudes are associated with the combination of cardiovascular risk factors known as the metabolic syndrome.  Two hundred and thirty-nine healthy adolescents from a low-to-middle class community (57% black; 53% female; mean age, 15.7 years) completed measures of negative and positive emotions and attitudes. Positive attributes included general positive affect, optimistic attitudes, subjective social status, and self-esteem while negative emotions included cynical attitudes, depressive symptoms, trait anger, and general negative affect. Components of the metabolic syndrome (waist circumference, glucose, blood pressure, triglycerides, and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol) were standardized and averaged to create a metabolic syndrome composite risk score.

Linear regression analyses showed that adolescents who had more positive attributes had lower metabolic syndrome composite risk scores, p < .01. The relationship remained significant after adjusting for age, sex, race, socioeconomic status, physical activity, smoking, and body mass index percentile. The negative emotion measures were unrelated to metabolic risk score.  

These findings emphasize the importance of the development of positive psychosocial resources during the adolescent transition for potentially reducing future cardiovascular risk.

Contributors:
Aimee J. Midei, PhD (Department of Psychology, University of Pittsburgh)
Karen A. Matthews, PhD (Department of Psychiatry, Psychology, and Epidemiology, University of Pittsburgh)

This article appeared in the Journal of Adolescent Health.  Click here to read the abstract.