Risk Factors for Developing Depression

If your child feels sad for weeks on end, find himself low on energy or motivation, or no longer enjoy doing things that used to interest him, he might be experiencing depression. It’s not necessarily about feeling sad. Depression is a mental health condition which can affect a person’s ability to function.

Depression is often a numb feeling rather than sadness. Often it is not something your child can control or just get over. Depression can be a serious issue, but there is treatment available that can help your child feel better.

Risk factors for depression

It may be useful for parents to know the factors that can increase a young person’s risk of developing depression or clinical anxiety or prolong these conditions. Changing or reducing the impact of these risk factors may prevent depression and clinical anxiety from occurring or persisting:

• A history of depression in close family members
• Being female
• Being a more sensitive, emotional or anxious person
• Adverse experiences in childhood, such as lack of care or abuse
• Family poverty
• Learning and other school difficulties
• Adverse events in a person’s life recently, such as being a victim of crime, death or serious illness in the family, having an accident, bullying or victimization
• Parental separation or divorce
• Social-cultural minorities and social disadvantage such as being part of a sexual minority and gender diverse group, youth in rural and remote areas, refugee, homeless, youth in the criminal justice system
• Lack of a close, confiding relationship with someone
• Long-term or serious physical illness
• Having another mental health condition such as an anxiety disorder, psychotic disorder or substance use disorder
• Premenstrual changes in hormone levels
• Caring full-time for a person with a long-term disability

Depression can also result from:

• the direct effects of some medical conditions such as Vitamin B12 deficiency, hypothyroidism, hepatitis, glandular fever, HIV and some cancers
• the side effects of certain medications or drugs, including some used to control acne
• intoxication from alcohol or other drugs.

Risk factors for clinical anxiety

Anxiety is mostly caused by perceived threats in the environment, but some people are more likely than others to react with anxiety when they are threatened. People most at risk are those who:

• have a more sensitive, emotional nature and who tend to see the world as threatening
• have a history of anxiety in childhood, including marked shyness
• are female
• experience a traumatic event
• are social-cultural minorities or experience social disadvantage.

There are some family factors that increase the risk for clinical anxiety:

• a difficult childhood such as experiencing physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, neglect, or having overly strict parents
• a family background that involves poverty or a lack of job skills
• a family history of anxiety problems
• parental alcohol problems
• parental separation and divorce

Anxiety symptoms can also result from:

• some medical conditions such as hyperthyroidism, arrhythmias and vitamin B12 deficiency
• side effects of certain prescription and non-prescription medications, including those used to treat attention deficit disorders
• intoxication with alcohol, amphetamines, caffeine, cannabis, cocaine, hallucinogens and inhalants.