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Sex and Age Differences in Anxiety and Depression among a Cohort of Cannabis Consumers and Non-Consumers: Preliminary Results from the Herbal Heart Study

Maxwell Wray
University of Miami

Co-Authors: Amrit Baral1, Bria-Necole A Diggs1, Ranya Marrakchi El Fellah1, Sarah E Messiah2, Raul Gonzalez3, Barry Hurwitz1, Claudia Martinez1, Denise C Vidot1
1University of Miami, 2University of Texas, 3Florida International University

Background: Research suggests that men and women experience anxiety and depressive disorders at different rates and are affected by cannabis differently. There is also some concern that cannabis use has negative impacts on the mental health of young adults who may use cannabis to alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression.  However, the relationship between sex, age, and cannabis use on mental health is unclear. This study assesses if there are sex-based and aged-based differences in anxiety and depression among cannabis consumers (CB+) and non-consumers (CB-).

Methods: Data were utilized from the ongoing Herbal Heart Study which investigates the relationship between cannabis use and subclinical cardiovascular risk. The Beck Anxiety Inventory (BAI) and the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) were administered. BAI and BDI are 21 question surveys that respectively classify anxiety and depressive symptoms experienced during the preceding week as either minimal, mild, moderate, or severe. First, BAI and BDI scores were compared among CB+ and CB- in the overall sample and then stratified by sex with t-tests and Mann-Whitney tests. This analysis was repeated to compare scores among Hispanic and non Hispanic participants, and among participants aged 18-26 and 27-35. Lastly, Chi-Square tests of independence and Fisher tests were used to see if cannabis use was related to severity of BAI and BDI scores.

Results: Among 150 participants [mean age: 24.6y (SD=4.49)], 66.7% were female, 51.3% were Hispanic/Latino, and 50.7% were CB+. In the overall sample, CB+ had significantly higher BAI scores than CB- (p=0.03), and participants aged 18-26 had significantly higher BDI scores than those aged 27-35 (p=0.018). No significant differences were found for BDI score between CB+ and CB- in the overall sample (p=0.15) or for BAI and BDI scores between Hispanic and non Hispanic participants. Sex stratification revealed that male CB+ had significantly higher BAI and BDI scores than CB- (p=0.015 and p=0.003, respectively) and female CB+ aged 18-26 had significantly higher BDI scores than female CB+ aged 27-35 (p=.04). Lastly, cannabis use was not associated with severity of BAI and BDI scores.

Conclusion: Sex and age based differences were found in this cohort of cannabis consumers and non-consumers. Additional research is needed to evaluate the relationship between sex, age, and cannabis use, alongside implementing an intervention to lower depressive and anxiety symptoms among male cannabis users and young adults.