Depressive Symptoms and Stressful Life Events Predict Metabolic Syndrome Among Middle-Aged Women

A comparison of World Health Organization, Adult Treatment Panel III, and International Diabetes Foundation definitions

  1. Katri Räikkönen, PHD1,
  2. Karen A. Matthews, PHD2 and
  3. Lewis H. Kuller, MD, DRPH3
  1. 1Department of Psychology, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
  2. 2Departments Psychiatry, Epidemiology, and Psychology, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  3. 3Departments of Public Health and Epidemiology, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  1. Address correspondence and reprint requests to Karen A. Matthews, PhD, University of Pittsburgh, 3811 O'Hara St., Pittsburgh, PA 15213. E-mail: matthewska{at}


OBJECTIVE—We evaluated whether psychosocial factors that are related to cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes predict prospectively the risk for the metabolic syndrome using the different clinical criteria available for defining the syndrome.

RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS—Women were enrolled in a population-based prospective cohort study called the Healthy Women Study and were followed for an average of 15 years after baseline. Metabolic syndrome was defined via the World Health Organization, the National Cholesterol Education Program Adult Treatment Panel III, and the International Diabetes Foundation clinical criteria.

RESULTS—Among women who did not have the metabolic syndrome at the baseline, the risk for the metabolic syndrome defined in multiple ways varied from 1.21- to 2.12-fold ([95% CI 1.00–4.25], P < 0.05) for more severe depressive symptoms or very stressful life event(s). These associations were largely the same, regardless of the clinical criteria used to define the metabolic syndrome. Those who at the baseline reported feeling frequently and intensely angry, tense, or stressed also had an increased risk for developing the metabolic syndrome at least by one definition (relative risk 1.19–1.66 [1.00–2.39]).

CONCLUSIONS—These are the first data to demonstrate that psychosocial factors predict the risk for developing the metabolic syndrome by multiple definitions. Psychosocial factors may play a causal role in the chain of events leading to the metabolic syndrome.


  • A table elsewhere in this issue shows conventional and Système International (SI) units and conversion factors for many substances.

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    • Accepted December 29, 2006.
    • Received September 5, 2006.
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