Study Finds Depression Intensifies from One Generation to Next

Jan 14, 2005

As the medical community continues to more accurately diagnose depression and anxiety disorders, a new study sheds light on how these debilitating phenomena are passed down through the generations -- and may even intensify.
Nearly 60 percent of children whose parents and grandparents suffered from depression have a psychiatric disorder before they reach their early teens, according to a new study by researchers at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) and the New York State Psychiatric Institute (NYSPI). This incidence is more than double the number of children (approximately 28 percent) who develop such disorders with no family history of depression.

The study, published in the January issue of Archives of General Psychiatry, is the first to follow three generations of high-risk families and has taken more than two decades to complete. The CUMC/NYSPI research team began studying 47 first-generation family members in 1982 and then interviewed 86 of their children several times as they grew into adulthood. The team also collected data from 161 members of the third generation, whose average age is 12.

Results found that most of the prepubescent grandchildren with a two-generation history of depression developed anxiety disorders that developed into depression as they reached adolescence. This trend was also found in the children's parents, who were followed through adolescence and adulthood.

"We have shown that the risk of depression is carried through several generations and that it intensifies as more generations are affected," said lead author Myrna Weissman, professor of psychiatry and epidemiology at CUMC and chief of the Department of Clinical & Genetic Epidemiology at NYSPI." Other investigators involved included Priya Wickramaratne and Virginia Warner.

Previous studies have shown that children of a depressed parent are at greater risk for development of mood and anxiety disorders, but the Columbia study is the first to illustrate how the risk intensifies across three generations.

"Children of parents and grandparents with depression are at extremely high risk for mood and anxiety disorders even when they're very young," Weissman said. "They should be considered for treatment if they develop anxiety disorders, or at least monitored very closely."

Source: Columbia University (By Craig LeMoult)

Explore further: How were fossil tracks made by Early Triassic swimming reptiles so well preserved?

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Study discovers a way to control internal clocks

Dec 23, 2014

Researchers hypothesize that targeting components of the mammalian clock with small molecules like REV-ERB drugs may lead to new treatments for sleep disorders and anxiety disorders. It also is possible that ...

Crime Victims' Institute investigates human trafficking

Dec 02, 2014

Human sex trafficking is a serious problem both domestically and internationally and enhanced education is necessary to address the risk factors for entry into the sex trade, the physical and mental health ...

Kids' health suffers when parents go to jail

Sep 03, 2014

The U.S. has the highest incarceration rate in the world, with more than 2 million people currently behind bars. How this affects their families is the subject of a new UC Irvine study, which found significant health and ...

Recommended for you

Predicting human crowds with statistical physics

Feb 27, 2015

For the first time researchers have directly measured a general law of how pedestrians interact in a crowd. This law can be used to create realistic crowds in virtual reality games and to make public spaces safer.

Bribery 'hits 1.6 billion people a year'

Feb 27, 2015

A total of 1.6 billion people worldwide – nearly a quarter of the global population – are forced to pay bribes to gain access to everyday public services, according to a new book by academics at the Universities of Birmingham ...

Broken windows thesis springs a leak

Feb 27, 2015

The broken windows theory posits that minor misdemeanors, like littering or graffiti spraying, stimulate more serious anti-social behavior. LMU sociologists now argue that the idea is flawed and does not ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.