Taking a Look at Depression From Childhood to Adulthood

Posted on December 27th, 2012
Posted in Depression

Outward appearances reveal the drastic transformation of our physical bodies from infants to adults. The change within the human body is not any less dramatic. Each stage of development in life brings new experiences which evoke different emotional and mental responses. Researchers from the Oregon Research Institute used four critical development periods in a human’s life as guides as they studied how depression emerged, developed, and affected an individual over the years.

The study revealed new information about the specific characteristics of depression across four developmental periods including how often it would happen, re-occur, last, and how it would affect other disorders in an individual’s life. The findings were published in the Association for Psychological Science journal, Clinical Psychological Science.

Four Developmental Stages

Researchers used the Oregon Adolescent Depression Project to study 816 people within four developmental periods of their life:

  • Childhood (ages 5.0-12.9)
  • Adolescence (ages 13.0-17.9)
  • Emerging Adulthood (ages 18.0-23.9)
  • Adulthood (ages 24.0-30.0)

Within each level, researchers analyzed the different symptoms present for Major Depressive Disorder (MDD). Researchers based the recovery from MDD as having 8 or more consecutive weeks free from major depressive symptoms.

The Tender Years

In studying those individuals in childhood and adolescence, researchers found that depression can fiercely impact a young child. They found that in the childhood years, MDD symptoms were less frequent than in other developmental periods, but more severe when depression did happen.

The adolescence period was the most at risk for suicide. Pre-adult pressures about appearance, academic performance, acceptance from peers, and independence from parents hit this age group hard. For those who had recurrent battles with depression throughout their life, nearly 19 percent had attempted suicide at least once by the time they were 30 years old.

Depression’s Impact Over the Years

According to the study, a little over one half of all the study participants had experienced MDD at least once by the time they reached age 30. This study only covers half a lifetime for most people and many studies have shown that depression is prevalent in older adults, too. In fact, the study also revealed that 53 percent of those participants who experienced MDD had at least one recurrence by the end of the study. Females were more likely to have their first-time episode of MDD in all four periods.

In multiple studies over the years, researchers have found associations between depression and anxiety and substance abuse. Within all four developmental periods, researchers from the Oregon Research Institute found connections between depression and these other disorders.

Understanding how the symptoms of depression affect individuals in each crucial developmental stage of their life can help provide the best treatment plan for that individual. Each person has their own history, their own chemical makeup, and their own needs, which discovered and tended to can aid in recovery.

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