Mental Health During Early Adolescence and Later Cardiometabolic Risk: A Prospective Study of US Latinx Youth

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



The Journal of adolescent health : official publication of the Society for Adolescent Medicine




Cardiometabolic risk; Latinx adolescents; Mental health; Structural equation modeling


PURPOSE: Rising rates of cardiometabolic risk and mental health problems are serious public health concerns for US adolescents, particularly those of Latinx origin. This research examines how Latinx youth's internalizing symptoms during early adolescence are related to sleep problems, overweight/obesity, sedentary behavior, physical activity, healthy diet, and hypertension or diabetes risk during middle and late adolescence. METHODS: Participants included 547 adolescents listed as "Hispanic" on 2017-18 middle school enrollment lists in a suburban Atlanta, GA school district. Survey data collected at baseline (2018) and four years later (2022) were analyzed using Structural Equation Model. Path estimates from baseline internalizing symptoms to later health behaviors and physical health outcomes adjusted for demographics, the follow-up measure of internalizing symptoms, and correlations among outcome variables. Missing data were handled using Full Information Maximum Likelihood. RESULTS: At baseline, the 244 (44.6%) male and 303 (55.4%) female participants had a mean (standard deviation) age in years of 13.31 (0.97). Early adolescent internalizing symptoms were associated positively with later sleep problems (ß = 0.36 [95% confidence interval (CI), 0.24-0.48]), overweight/obesity (adjusted odds ratio, 2.57; 95% CI, 1.29-5.15), sedentary behavior (ß = 0.19 [95% CI, 0.09-0.30]), and internalizing symptoms (ß = 0.48 [95% CI, 0.39-0.56]) and inversely with later physical activity (ß = -0.16 [95% CI, -0.27 to -0.05]) and a healthy diet (ß = -0.21 [95% CI, -0.32 to -0.09]). DISCUSSION: Latinx youth's internalizing symptoms during early adolescence not only track into later adolescence, but they also relate to health behaviors and outcomes underlying cardiometabolic risk during middle and late adolescence.


Prevention and Community Health