A prospective study of positive early life psychosocial factors and favorable cardiovascular risk in adulthood

Date Published: 
January 2013
Appleton A, Buka S, Loucks E, Rimm E, Martin L, and Kubzansky LD

Most children are born with the components of favorable cardiovascular risk—good blood pressure, lipid, and glucose levels; ideal body weight; and not smoking. If they can hold onto those assets, keep their weight down, and not get diabetes, they can avoid cardiovascular disease later.

These researchers wanted to identify early psychosocial factors that safeguard and promote cardiovascular health into adulthood. The features they looked at were:

  • Self-regulation–the ability to manage behavior, emotion, attention, and social interactions
  • Cognitive ability
  • Aspects of the home environment.

The study subjects were the now-adult offspring of the New England Family Study (pregnant women enrolled 1959–1966), and its follow-up studies. The subjects had been visited at seven years old and assessed for cognitive, sensory and motor skills. Their IQ was estimated and the home environment assessed, including maternal parenting behaviors.

At follow-up, 35 years later, participants were on average 42 years old, White (81%), and female (59%). Positive child psychosocial factors were associated with favorable cardiovascular risk in adulthood, with the benefit of each factor additive. Those who had high levels of all three assets as children had a 4.3 higher odds of having favorable cardiovascular health as adults than those low in all three.

Self Published: 
Health Assets: 
Attention Regulation, Cognitive Ability, Positive Home Environment
Health Conditions: 
Cardiovascular Disease
Positive Health Type: 
Other Factors: 
Education, Diet Blood Pressure, Cholesterol, BMI, Medication Use, Smoking, Diabetes Status
RWJF Grant-Funded: