Can Depression Be Predicted?

Major depressive disorder risk factors may help doctors predict its onset

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) Major depressive disorder, also called MDD, is one of the most common mental disorders affecting people today. Once it occurs, it can be present throughout a person’s lifetime.

A recent study conducted at the Oregon Research Institute set out to understand common factors in people who experienced their first symptoms of what would become a lifetime of major depressive disorder.

The researchers found that gender, family history, and life experiences all play a role in predicting depression.

"Talk to a psychiatrist about depression"

Daniel Klein, PhD at Stony Brook University partnered with the Oregon Research Institute to study the possible risk factors associated with the development of major depressive disorder.

MDD usually first appears during young adulthood, from late teens to early thirties.

A large random group of students who averaged 17 years of age were selected to participate in the fifteen-year study. The researchers collected data at four different times during the process through formal interviews and questionnaires.

The participants were interviewed about their depression symptoms, their thoughts about suicide, any major life events as well as daily hassles, their social support system and instances of abuse.

The researchers also gathered demographic information and family histories of mental illness.

Of the 500 participants that continued through the fifteen-year process, 35 percent experienced a first episode of major depressive disorder that became lifetime MDD.

The researchers found that women are at higher risk for major depressive disorder than men, which has been reported in other similar studies as well.

Dr. Klein and his team found that a family history of mental illness and experiencing mild symptoms of depression (even if they don’t meet the criteria for an official diagnosis) were both serious risk factors for developing major depressive disorder later.

A history of sexual abuse, poor physical health, and having a childhood anxiety disorder were also related to developing MDD as a young adult.

"This study is useful for parents, educators, mental health and medical providers, and anyone interested in preventing mental health problems in the vulnerable young adult age group. Early identification of problems and prompt intervention and treatment can get life back on track or even prevent worse consequences, such as suicide, " said Dr. Barbara Long, MD and PhD, a psychiatrist and DailyRx contributing expert.

This study was published online in August in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology and was funded by a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health. No conflicts of interest were reported.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
August 27, 2012
Last Updated:
January 22, 2013