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Who Is Affected by Depression in Children and Teens?

Depression in children and teens is a growing problem that often goes unrecognized and untreated. Depression affects young people from all races, cultures, and socioeconomic backgrounds. Before puberty, depression occurs equally in boys and girls. After puberty, girls are two to three times more likely than boys to experience depression.1Depression lasts an average of 8 months in children and adolescents. Even with treatment, at least half of those children and adolescents with depression suffer another depression episode.2

Some children and adolescents are at higher risk for developing depression, such as those who:

  • Have a family history of depression.
  • Are preadolescent boys (younger than 13).
  • Are girls in the early stages of puberty.
  • Have another health or mental disorder, such as an anxiety disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
  • Have substance abuse problems (such as with alcohol, drugs, or nicotine).
  • Complain of physical symptoms without any physical problems (such as somatization disorder).
  • Have been physically or sexually abused.
  • Have had a previous episode of depression.
  • Have faced a recent trauma, such as a death in the family or problems with peers.
  • Live in a home environment that has family conflict.
  • Have a serious or long-term illness, such as diabetes or cancer.
  • Are uncertain of their sexual orientation.


  1. Wagner KD, Brent DA (2009). Depressive disorders and suicide. In BJ Sadock et al., eds., Kaplan and Sadock’s Comprehensive Textbook of Psychiatry, 9th ed., vol. 2, pp. 3652-3663. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.

  2. American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (2007). Practice parameters for the assessment and treatment of children and adolescents with depressive disorders. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 46(11): 1503-1526.

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Lisa S. Weinstock, MD - Psychiatry
Last Revised April 5, 2011

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: April 05, 2011
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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