Relationship among low cholesterol levels, depressive symptoms, aggression, hostility, and cynicism
BACKGROUND: Treatment guidelines for lipids have become increasingly more aggressive. However, naturally low or therapeutically reduced cholesterol levels may be associated with adverse psychological health symptoms, including depression, aggression, and hostility. OBJECTIVE: To examine relationships between low total cholesterol (TC) and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels and measures of psychosocial status among middle-aged adults. METHODS: A total of 1995 subjects enrolled in the Heart Strategies Concentrating on Risk Evaluation study with data on TC, LDL cholesterol, and self-reported ratings of psychological health were evaluated. To quantify ratings of depression, aggression, cynicism, and hostility, psychological measures included the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D) and Cook-Medley Hostility Inventory. RESULTS: Of 1995 participants, 25.1% were taking a lipid-lowering agent at baseline. Mean CES-D scores were similar between participants with low (<150 mg/dL) versus greater (≥150 mg/dL) TC and low (<100 mg/dL) versus higher (≥100 mg/dL) LDL cholesterol. However, among 22 participants with LDL cholesterol <70 mg/dL, the prevalence of clinically significant depressive symptomatology (CES-D score ≥16) was 31.8% compared with 12.1% in the remaining cohort (P = .005). In multivariable analysis, low LDL cholesterol (<100 mg/dL) was associated with cynicism (partial r = -0.14, P = .02) and hostility (partial r = -0.18, P = .004), but only in the subgroup of white subjects currently taking lipid-lowering medications. Low LDL cholesterol (versus non-low) was associated with greater aggression scores but only among participants currently taking psychiatric medications (3.4 ± 1.7 vs 2.8 ± 1.5, P = .02). CONCLUSIONS: Our data indicate mixed evidence for independent relationships between low total and LDL cholesterol levels and impaired psychological health.
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