Sex-Specific Differences in Severity of Depressive Symptoms, Heart Rate Variability, and Neurocognitive Profiles of Depressed Young Adults: Exploring Characteristics for Mild Depression

Jae A. Lim, Je Yeon Yun, Yoobin Choi, Soo Hee Choi, Yoonhee Kwon, Hwa Young Lee, Joon Hwan Jang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Mild depressive symptoms (MDS) reflect vulnerability to major depression that does not meet the criteria for a major depressive disorder (MDD). Previous research indicates that it is difficult to identify MDS in young adults, and they exhibit diverse aspects of depressive symptoms caused by clinical depression, which can lead to poor academic performance, relationship difficulties, and even suicide. Additionally, many young adults remain unaware of their depressive symptoms during the early stages of MDD. Thus, the present study investigated clinical, neurocognitive, and physiological characteristics of young adults with various symptoms of depression and explored sex-specific differences. A total of 113 students aged 18–35 (MDD: n = 32; MDS: n =37; control [CON]: n = 44) participated in the study. Self-report clinical measures, short-term cardiac activity measured by finger sensors, and neurocognitive data were collected. Pearson's correlations, two-way analysis of variance (ANOVA), principal component analysis, and exploratory structural equation modeling were conducted for the statistical analyses. Furthermore, the measurement invariance of the latent factor model was tested, and fit indices were compared according to sex. The results revealed that male students showed greater sympatho-vagal activity than female students. Additionally, male MDS students tended to exhibit decreased performance levels in neurocognitive function tasks compared with MDD and CON males, whereas female MDS students showed distinct characteristics compared to MDD and CON females on self-report measures of anxiety. Correlation analyses identified a positive association between the level of anger perception and latency in the executive function test among both males and females. Additionally, the use of a structured model revealed significant sex-specific differences in factor estimates. The present results suggest that recognizing the early signs of MDS that account for sex-specific differences in both subjective and objective measures may improve the diagnosis and monitoring of young adults with MDS.

Original languageEnglish
Article number217
JournalFrontiers in Psychiatry
Volume11
DOIs
StatePublished - 17 Mar 2020

Keywords

  • emotion regulation
  • heart rate variability
  • mild depressive symptom
  • sex differences
  • young adults

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