Risk Factors for Depression


About risk factors: Risk factors for Depression are factors that do not seem to be a direct cause of the disease, but seem to be associated in some way. Having a risk factor for Depression makes the chances of getting a condition higher but does not always lead to Depression. Also, the absence of any risk factors or having a protective factor does not necessarily guard you against getting Depression. For general information and a list of risk factors, see the risk center.

Risk factor list: The list of risk factors mentioned for Depression in various sources includes:

Risk factors discussion: In childhood, boys and girls appear to be at equal risk for depressive disorders; but during adolescence, girls are twice as likely as boys to develop depression. Children who develop major depression are more likely to have a family history of the disorder, often a parent who experienced depression at an early age, than patients with adolescent- or adult-onset depression. Adolescents with depression are also likely to have a family history of depression, though the correlation is not as high as it is for children.

Other risk factors include:

  • Stress
  • Cigarette smoking
  • A loss of a parent or loved one
  • Break-up of a romantic relationship
  • Attentional, conduct or learning disorders
  • Chronic illnesses, such as diabetes
  • Abuse or neglect
  • Other trauma, including natural disasters

People who have low self-esteem, who consistently view themselves and the world with pessimism or who are readily overwhelmed by stress, are prone to depression. Whether this represents a psychological predisposition or an early form of the illness is not clear. 2

Many hormonal factors may contribute to the increased rate of depression in women-particularly such factors as menstrual cycle changes, pregnancy, miscarriage, postpartum period, pre-menopause, and menopause. Many women also face additional stresses such as responsibilities both at work and home, single parenthood, and caring for children and for aging parents. 2

Psychosocial and environmental stressors are known risk factors for depression. NIMH research has shown that stress in the form of loss, especially death of close family members or friends, can trigger depression in vulnerable individuals.3

Certain personalities--people with low self-esteem or who are very dependent on others--seem to be vulnerable to depression. 4

The chronic stress often associated with the caregiving role can contribute to mental health problems; indeed, caregivers are much more likely to suffer from depression than the average person. Since women in general are at greater risk for depression than men, female caregivers of people with AD may be particularly vulnerable to depression. 5

Risks factors for Depression: medical news summaries: The following medical news items are relevant to risk factors for Depression:

1. excerpt from Depression in Children and Adolescents A Fact Sheet for Physicians: NIMH
2. excerpt from Depression: NIMH
3. excerpt from Depression Research: NIMH
4. excerpt from If You're Over 65 and Feeling Depressed Treatment Brings New Hope: NIMH
5. excerpt from Women Hold Up Half the Sky: NIMH

Last revision: July 1, 2003

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