Yukta Kulkarni ’22
Depression is an illness that can cause feelings of sadness and can affect the way one thinks and acts. The first onset of depression is seen in childhood and often precedes chronic depression later on in life. Interestingly, it is correlated with differences in biological sex, as females have a 30% higher chance of struggling with first onset depression compared to males. There are many factors that may promote feelings of depression including, but not limited to, biological, clinical, and cognitive risk factors. Michelini et al. strived to determine if a certain set of risk factors could accurately predict the first onset of depressive disorders in females.
The study included 550 females aged 13-15 who all participated in three in-person visits (months 2, 18, and 36) and 2 phone assessments (months 9 and 27). A baseline risk factor test and multiple diagnostic assessments were administered to determine their mental status at the beginning of the study and at later check-ins. The diagnostic assessments tested the following: anxiety, irritability, rumination, self-criticism, interpersonal dependency, personality traits, relationships with loved ones, and social support. After statistical analysis, it was seen that over 3 years, 19.42% (93 participants) experienced first onset depression disorders, which was predicted by most of the risk factor assessments. This is because there was a significant difference in the responses from the females who have first onset depressive disorders and those who do not. Of those who experienced first-onset depression disorders, 65% had their onset in the first 18 months and 35% had their onset in the last 18 months. This correlated with test scores as higher scores on the diagnostic assessments corresponded to a quicker first onset. In addition, almost all of the tests predicted first onset depressive disorders that became chronic.
It is no surprise that people with depressive disorders have these symptoms; however, discovering that testing children, especially young females, early can help prevent severe outcomes in the future. For example, those females who tested more likely to have chronic depressive disorders have a higher chance of ending their lives due to the ferocity of the illness. That said, further testing is needed to determine if these early symptoms lead to depressive disorders in adolescent males, children, and adults as well. Additionally, these studies should be done in a more diverse group of participants as certain backgrounds and genetics may play a role in developing first onset or chronic depressive disorders.
 G. Michelini, et al., Multiple domains of risk factors for first onset of depression in adolescent girls. Journal of Affective Disorders 283, 20-29 (2021). doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jad.2021.01.036
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