8.10. Hopelessness, Depressive Symptoms, Physical Activity and the Metabolic Syndrome

Public examination of a doctoral dissertation in the field of medicine

Doctoral candidate: Lic Med Maarit Valtonen

Time and venue: 8.10. 2011 at 12 noon, Vanha Ortopedia, Auditorium, Jyväskylä

The prevalence of metabolic syndrome is rapidly growing worldwide, increasing the risk for diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Hopelessness, determined as a system of negative expectancies concerning oneself and one’s future, has shown to be a predictor of cardiovascular morbidity and mortality, independently of depression. Psychosocial factors have also been associated with features of metabolic syndrome. However, the direction of this association, possible mediating factors and the extent of psychosocial factors related with metabolic syndrome itself are not known.

The purpose of this study was to provide new information about the aetiology of metabolic syndrome and depressive symptoms, to disentangle the relationships among them and to clarify possible mediating factors, such as physical activity and low-grade inflammation, underlying the associations. To better target high-risk groups for treatment and prevention of metabolic syndrome, depressive symptoms and their consequences, such knowledge is necessary. 

The Kuopio Ischemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study (KIHD) is a population-based cohort study with a representative sample of 2682 middle-aged male participants. The data on the features and components of metabolic syndrome were collected on clinical examinations. Physical activity, feelings of hopelessness and depressive symptoms were estimated by detailed questionnaires. Follow-up data were collected 4 and 11 years after the baseline.

This study showed that non-diabetic men with high levels of hopelessness were twice more likely to have metabolic syndrome than men who were less hopeless, independently of traditional risk factors, body mass index and other depressive symptoms. In addition, non-diabetic men with both low-grade inflammation and depressive symptoms were more likely to develop abdominal obesity (waist girth at least 102 cm) and metabolic syndrome than men with neither of these risk markers even after adjusting for traditional risk factors. 

The study also showed that those men exercising for at least 2.5 h per week moderate-to-vigorous leisure-time physical activity (LTPA) were 28% less likely to express feelings of hopelessness than physically inactive men even after adjustment for traditional risk factors and depressive symptoms. Men engaging in moderate-to-vigorous LTPA at least 2.5 hours per week had 35% lower risk to feel hopeless about their future and reaching goals 4 years later than inactive men at baseline. After 11 years the trend was still similar, indicating protective effect of LTPA.

This study indicates that in addition to focusing on the traditional risk factors of cardiovascular disease, the emotional state and expectations of individuals should be taken into account in the prevention and treatment of metabolic syndrome and its consequences. This study also agrees with growing evidence that regular LTPA contributes to mental health. A physically active lifestyle may help one to maintain or gain more optimistic perspective on the future and oneself.

The doctoral dissertation of Licenciate of Medicine Maarit Valtonen, entitled Hopelessness, Depressive Symptoms, Physical Activity and the Metabolic Syndrome. A Population-based Cohort Study in Men will be examined at the Faculty of Health Sciences. The opponent in the public examination will be Professor Johan Eriksson of the University of Helsinki and the custos will be Professor Leo Niskanen of the University of Eastern Finland.

Photo available for download at http://uef.fi/vaitoskuvat .


Contact: Maarit Valtonen, tel. 050 5900 268, maarit.valtonen@likes.fi

Publishing year: 2011

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