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Growth Hormone May Worsen Depression Symptoms

Update Date: Jun 24, 2014 06:54 PM EDT

Growth hormone treatment may increase the risk of depression in children. While some short children are treated with growth hormone to become taller, new research reveals that the treatment could cause them to become more depressed and withdrawn.

"Daily injections, frequent clinic visits and repeated discussions about height might exacerbate instead of improve psychosocial concerns in children with idiopathic short stature (ISS) who are otherwise healthy, and give them no cognitive improvements," lead author Emily C. Walvoord, MD, associate professor of clinical pediatrics at the Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis, said in a news release.

Researchers assessed the cognitive and behavioral status of children with GHD and ISS after receiving either GH therapy or observation alone. The latest study involved 41 children with GHD and ISS. Participants were aged 6 to 16 years. They were asked to take a number of tests that measured their cognitive functioning. The children's parents were also asked to complete questionnaires that determined their child's emotional and behavioral functioning.

The children were then divided into two groups. One group received growth hormone, while the control group received a placebo.

The children were then retested nine to 12 months after the therapy.

While the findings revealed no differences in cognitive functioning between GHD and the ISS children from their first test to their retest.

However, untreated ISS children experienced improvement in their depression and withdrawal symptoms, according to researchers. However, children treated with growth hormone seemed to have suffered worse depression and withdrawal symptoms.

"This novel study of the cognitive and emotional effects of GH therapy in children with GHD and ISS compared to untreated short children raises concerns that, despite improvements in height, these children may not achieve psychosocial benefits," Walvoord concluded.

The findings were presented Monday at ICE/ENDO 2014, the joint meeting of the International Society of Endocrinology and the Endocrine Society in Chicago.

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