Researchers Determine Risk of Depression Is Doubled in Abused Children

A child or teenager's risk of suffering from multiple episodes of clinical depression is almost doubled if the child is abused.

According to a team of researchers from King’s College London Institute of Psychiatry, a child or teenager’s risk of suffering from multiple episodes of clinical depression is almost doubled if the child is abused.

The researchers also found that such episodes are less responsive to treatment and seem to last longer in abused adolescents than they do in adults.

“The results indicate that childhood maltreatment is associated both with an increased risk of developing recurrent and persistent episodes of depression, and with an increased risk of responding poorly to treatment,” the researchers reported.

It is estimated that about one in 15 adults are suffering from depression in the US, while one in 12 teens suffer from depression.

The World Health Organization predicts that by the year 2020, depression will be the second leading contributor to the global burden of disease stretching across all ages.

The societal impact of depression is largely accounted for by individuals who develop multiple and long-lasting depressive episodes.

A related article divulges into a recent study that found a rise in the rate of children who are hospitalized for mental illness.

The London researchers reviewed the findings of 16 studies which were published previously in scientific and medical journals, conducted on a total of more than 23,000 patients.

They discovered from their research that mistreatment in childhood, ranging from rejection by the mother to callous physical or sexual abuse, more than doubled the risk of depression.

“Even for combined treatments, patients with a history of childhood maltreatment cannot be adequately cared for,” stated lead researcher Andrea Danese.

The researchers discovered that 27% of the 23,000 participants reported that they had “probable” mistreatment in childhood; 19.4% of this percentage went on to develop chronic depression.

Another group of 9% reported “definite” mistreatment in childhood, and of this smaller group of participants, 31.5% developed depression.

The majority of the participants in the study (64%) reported no mistreatment, and only 12.5% of them went on to develop depression.

“Identifying those at risk of multiple and long-lasting depressive episodes is crucial from a public health perspective,” stated the researchers.

One possible reason behind this connection could be epigenetic changes to the DNA, meaning that there is no alteration in the genetic code, but the environment a person inhabits has the ability to modify how genes are expressed.

“Therefore prevention and early therapeutic interventions targeting childhood maltreatment could prove vital in helping prevent the major health burden owing to depression,” concluded the researchers. “Knowing that individuals with a history of maltreatment won’t respond as well to treatment may also be valuable for clinicians in determining patients’ prognosis.”

The study appears in the latest issue of American Journal of Psychiatry.