Islamabad - A child’s grades in school might suffer if a parent is suffering from depression, according to a new study.

Researchers found that Swedish teens received lower grades during their final year in school if either of their parents had previously been diagnosed with depression.

The difference in grades was noticeable but not huge, said senior author Brian Lee, an associate professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at Drexel University’s Dornsife School of Public Health in Philadelphia.

“It’s not an entire letter grade drop, but at the same time it might be the difference between a student passing or failing,” Lee said. Parents’ depression could affect the children’s home lives, causing stress that impacts their academic performance, Lee said.

“Depression is a social disease,” he said. “It doesn’t just affect you. It affects your relationships as well. If there’s strain there, it may affect the child’s academic performance.”

Since depression can be handed down, it also could be that the children are not doing as well in school because they suffer from undiagnosed mood disorders, he added.

Infants also might receive poorer care during early development if their mothers are depressed - less breast-feeding or nurturing, for example - which could have long-term impacts on children’s ability to learn and problem-solve, he said.

“There are many different mechanisms to explain what we’ve found, and those are just a few possibilities,” Lee said.

The study only found an association between parental depression and worse grades, however, not a direct cause-and-effect relationship.

In the study, Lee and his colleagues examined data on more than 1.1 million children born in Sweden between 1984 and 1994. Compulsory education ends at age 16 in Sweden, and kids leaving school are assigned a final school grade based on how well they did in their last year. The researchers compared the final grades of teens whose mothers and fathers had been diagnosed with depression against those of teens whose parents do not have a mood disorder.

They found that maternal and paternal depression affected a teen’s performance during that final year in school, even if the depression occurred years earlier.

In general, both maternal and paternal depression in any period of a child’s life were associated with worse school performance. Maternal depression was associated with a larger negative effect on school performance for girls compared with boys, according to the results.

The impact of depression is as large as similar effects on grades caused by differences in family income and the level of mom’s education, the researchers reported.

Dr. Andrew Adesman, chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New Hyde Park, N.Y., said, “This study provides strong evidence to suggest that children who have a depressed parent are at increased risk for lower academic performance.”

Adesman, who was not involved with the research, found it “striking” that parental depression affects learning “regardless of whether the parental depression occurred early in a child’s life or later and regardless of whether it is the mother who is depressed or the father.”

The findings show that parents suffering from depression need to get help if they want to protect their kids, said Myrna Weissman, chief of epidemiology at the New York State Psychiatric Institute and a professor at Columbia University in New York City.

How your height affects your health

It is an attribute written into your DNA - how tall a person will be is determined before they are born. Yet, in recent decades the height of children and adults the world over has increased, with most generations reaching adulthood taller than their parents.

Now, a new study has revealed how tall a person is, can have far-reaching consequences for their health.

Height has an important impact on mortality, increasing the risk of a number of diseases, regardless of body fat mass and other influential factors.

A new study has found taller people have a lower risk for cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, but a higher risk of cancer due to dietary and interacting factors such as genetics and stress

Past research has shown tall people have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes than their shorter peers.

Yet, the taller a person is, the greater their risk of certain cancers.

Professor Matthias Schulze of the German Institute of Human Nutrition in Potsdam said: ‘Epidemiological data show that per 6.5cm in height the risk of cardiovascular mortality decreases by six per cent.

‘But, cancer mortality, by contrast, increases by four per cent.’ 

Taller people are more likely to be diagnosed with breast and colon cancer, as well as melanoma. Professor Schulze, along with colleagues Professor Norbert Stefan and Professor Hans-Ulrich Häring at the University of Tübingen, and Professor Frank Hu of the Harvard School of Public Health, suspect the increase in body height is a marker of overnutrition of high-calorie food rich in animal protein, at different stages of growth.

Therefore, already in utero, lifelong programming likely takes place that until now has mainly been established for insulin-like growth factor one and two. 

Professor Stefan added: ‘Accordingly, our new data show that tall people are more sensitive to insulin and have lower fat content in the liver, which may explain their lower risk for cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.’

The findings fit in with published data that suggest tall people have relative protection against disorders of the lipid metabolism.

The authors note it is the activation of the insulin-like growth factor one and two signalling pathways that is likely linked to an increased risk of certain cancers, specifically breast and colon cancer and melanoma because cell growth is permanently activated.

The result is an inverse association with the risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, but a positive association with the risk of cancer.  

The scientists advocate considering the factor growth and adult height in the prevention of the above-mentioned major diseases.

In particular, physicians should be made more aware of the fact that tall people - although less often affected by cardiovascular disease or type 2 diabetes - have an increased risk of cancer, the authors concluded.