Aug. 25, 2003 -- Teenagers who experience a major episode of depression are more likely to have a relapse in their early 20s that causes personal problems across the board.
Researchers say such a relapse can greatly affect the person's quality of life -- including being more likely to have poor job performance and encounter social problems. The findings appear in the August issue of the Journal of Abnormal Psychology.
The new study shows a link between episodes of major depression in teens and their ability to successfully reach developmental tasks expected for their age -- a term described as psychological competency.
The study examined nearly 900 people twice before they turned 19, then again at age 24.
Researchers studied the degree to which the teens reached competency and assessed the differences an episode of major depression had on how well they were functioning. They compared the competency of depressed teens with that of teens who had other psychological disorders but not depression, such as drug abuse, anxiety disorders, and others known to disrupt normal development.
They found that young adults who experienced an episode of depression during adolescence had numerous impairments in job performance, interpersonal relationships, quality of life, and physical well-being.
They also found 62% of those with major depression as a teen experienced a mental disorder in their early 20s. These people were less likely to graduate from college, had more problems holding down a job, had more physical health problems, and overall, had more stressful lives.
However, researchers write that the most unique characteristic linked to people who had teen depression versus those who didn't is reduced life satisfaction. This, they write, could also be brought on by being depressed.
Researchers write there are some associated factors with depression that might explain their findings -- though the cause is still uncertain. They say teen depression is more prevalent in people with weak family ties, who have a smaller social network, and who have been frequently treated for mental health problems.
Finally, the researchers note that more research is required to examine whether formerly depressed teens continue to be distinguishable from never-depressed teens, even after longer periods of time without repeated episodes of depression. And they say more effective treatments are needed to prevent depression and recurrences of major depression in teens.