Unhappy childhood may raise heart disease risk in later life
The study found that being prone to distress at the age of seven was associated with a significantly higher risk of cardiovascular disease in later life.
Conversely children who were better at paying attention and staying focused had reduced heart risk when older, BBC News reported.
US researchers looked at 377 adults who had taken part in the research as children. At seven they had undergone several tests to look at emotional behaviour.
They compared the results from this with a commonly used risk score for cardiovascular disease of participants now in their early 40s.
After controlling for other factors which might influence heart disease risk, they found that high levels of distress at age seven were associated with a 31 per cent increased risk of cardiovascular disease in middle-aged women.
For men with high levels of distress in childhood – which included being easily frustrated and quick to anger – the increased risk of cardiovascular disease was 17 per cent.
For 40-year-olds who had been prone to distress as a child, the chances of having a heart attack or stroke in the next 10 years increased from 3.2 per cent to 4.2 per cent for women and 7.3 to 8.5 per cent for men.
The researchers also looked at positive emotional factors such as having a good attention span and found this was linked with better cardiovascular health, although to a lesser degree.
Other studies have linked adversity in childhood with cardiovascular disease in adults. Research in adults as linked poor emotional wellbeing with higher levels of cardiovascular disease, the researchers said.
Study leader Dr Allison Appleton, said more research would now be needed to work out the biological mechanism that may underpin the finding.
"We know that persistent distress can cause dysregulation of the stress response and that is something we want to look at," Appleton said.
The study was published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.