Symptoms of depression tend to first appear in young adulthood. Some individuals may have their first episode of major depression (MDD) in their late teens, while others may experience a significant period of depression while in their mid to late 20s. Regardless of when it occurs, MDD can dramatically disrupt a person’s life. Sadness, fatigue, disorganized thinking, and overwhelming feelings of worthlessness can impair an individual’s ability to function and cause damage to relationships, careers, and families. Identifying the risk factors for depression can provide early treatment and hopefully help prevent the negative consequences of future episodes.
Daniel N. Klein of the Department of Psychology at Stony Brook University in New York wanted to extend existing research on depression and look at risk factors in relation to gender and also to determine how specific risk factors’ affect diminished or increased over time. To accomplish this, Klein enlisted 502 participants, ranging in age from 19 to 31, from the Oregon Adolescent Depression Project. He examined a range of factors, including gender, history of anxiety, mood issues, childhood sexual abuse, and family history. He also looked at the history of mood issues and the clinical threshold of the symptoms prior to the onset of MDD.
Klein discovered that simple risk models were able to help identify several factors that greatly influenced the onset of depression. In his sample, 35.5% of the participants had MDD. Some of the contributing factors included family history of mood problems, sexual abuse, and anxiety issues. Additionally, the females were more likely to have MDD than the males. Klein also noticed that individuals with subthreshold symptoms of depression were more likely to experience an episode of MDD than those without. “Collectively, these variables had a medium-to-large effect, suggesting that simple multivariate risk models may be useful in identifying high-risk groups for targeted prevention,” he said. Klein believes that all of these conditions affect depression in unique and independent ways but are, nonetheless, important to identify when working with those at risk for depression.
Klein, D. N., Glenn, C. R., Kosty, D. B., Seeley, J. R., Rohde, P., Lewinsohn, P. M. (2012). Predictors of first lifetime onset of major depressive disorder in young adulthood. Journal of Abnormal Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0029567
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