Teenage depression can be enduring, but is more often short-lived

Teenage depression is widespread and can become a life-long illness, but is more often transitory, said UCLA Psychology Professor Constance Hammen, who will discuss her research at an invited address May 27 at the American Psychological Society's annual convention in Los Angeles.

"Adolescent depression can be as high as 20 percent or higher," said Hammen, who has studied depression for more than 30 years. "While these numbers are alarming, and depression can be impairing, most of the depressions will be short-lived and most of these kids will not go on to have further depression.

"Many things can make teenagers depressed, but in about 60 percent of the cases, the depression does not foretell future depression. Of those who have adolescent depression, perhaps 40 percent will have recurring depression, and many of those will likely be life-long."

Hammen has been conducting a long-term study over the last 10 years of 800 families with children now in their 20s, along with Patricia Brennan from Emory University in Atlanta. The subjects are among 7,000 families in Australia who have been studied since the children were five years old by researchers from the University of Queensland.

About half of the children in the current study who showed depression by age 15 had recurring depression by age 20, and those who did have a distinctive profile, Hammen and Brennan found. Their preliminary analysis indicates the adolescents who showed depression by age 15 and again between 15 and 20 also had anxiety disorders and poor social relationships such as fewer friends or more conflict in their relationships.

"We have found that the risk for recurring depression occurs in the kids who had early depression and social difficulties," Hammen said. "Kids depressed by 15 who function normally in social relationships did not go on to have depression by 20. Poor social functioning by age 15, such as not having stable friendships, looks like a risk fa

Contact: Stuart Wolpert
University of California - Los Angeles

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