Recent evidence suggests that naturally occurring low cholesterol concentrations (<4.14 mmol/liter) are associated with depression as well as poor psychological health. For the most part, these associations have been observed in men. The current study assessed the relation of naturally occurring low lipid and lipoprotein concentrations to trait measures of depression and anxiety in 121 healthy young adult women.
Fasting lipid samples were collected at the same time as health history. Trait depression and anxiety were assessed using the Neuroticism, Extraversion, Openness-Personality Inventory (NEO-PI) depression subscale and Spielberger's Trait Personality Inventory (STPI) anxiety subscale. Analyses were conducted using both univariate and multivariate procedures.
NEO depression was inversely associated with total cholesterol (p = .027), triglycerides (p = .012), and the ratio of total cholesterol to high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (p = .059). Similarly, STPI anxiety was inversely associated with total cholesterol (p = .002), low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (p = .016), triglycerides (p = .024), and ratio of total cholesterol to high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (p = .075). These associations were significant after adjustment for age, body mass index, physical activity, oral contraceptive use, and hostility. Neither depression nor anxiety was associated with high-density lipoprotein cholesterol. Univariate analyses indicated that women with low total cholesterol concentrations (<4.14 mmol/liter), relative to those with moderate to high cholesterol levels, were more likely to have higher scores on the NEO depression subscale (27 of 69 (39%) vs. 10 of 52 (19%)) and STPI anxiety subscale (24 of 69 (35%) vs. 11 of 52 (21%)).
In healthy young adult women, low lipid and lipoprotein concentrations are inversely associated with trait measures of depression and anxiety. These findings are independent of age, body mass index, physical activity, and other factors known to influence lipid concentrations.
From the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina.
Address reprint requests to: Edward C. Suarez, PhD, Duke University Medical Center, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, PO Box 3926, Durham, NC 27710.
Received for publication April 10, 1998; revision received December 11, 1998.