Sad Moms, Short Kids

Depression stunts growth in children

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Childhood growth has long been a good indicator of a child's health and nutritional status. New research shows that these factors may also be influenced by a mother's mental health.  

In a study conducted by the World Health Organization (W.H.O.), doctors found maternal depression to affect women around the world, particularly in low-income countries.  Additionally, doctors discovered that the children of depressed mothers exhibit increased risk of impaired growth. 

"Reach out to your family and  friends if suffering from maternal depression.   "

A meta-analysis of seventeen studies meeting strict inclusion criteria from Africa, South America, and Asia. After analyzing the data in a variety of ways, researchers found a strong relationship between maternal depression and a decrease in height and weight of children.

Published in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization, co-authors Pamela Surken, Ph.D., Sc.D., of Johns Hopkins University and Maureen Black, Ph.D., of the University of Maryland talk with the APA regarding the study.  

"Mothers who are depressed are less responsive to their children and may have less energy to follow through with their children, so care-giving suffers,” explains Black. Though the doctor continues on to mention “it's likely that there's more than one mechanism.” 

Lead-author, Dr. Surken, reaches out, “we should do something about maternal depressive symptoms, both for the mothers and the children.” The authors express to those suffering depression that there are low-cost treatments available.

Friends, family, community members, counselors, and further health professionals can all help reduce stressors attributing to depression. Talk with someone if maternal depression affects your life.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
December 1, 2011
Last Updated:
December 1, 2011