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Depression in Children and Adolescents

Prevalence of Depression in Youth

According to American statistics, anywhere from 0.4% to 2.5% of pre-adolescent children will suffer from Depression, and here the rates are similar for boys and girls [ref].  After puberty, about 10% of all girls and 5% of all boys will suffer from Depression during their adolescence [ref].

About 5-10% of children and adolescents can also be found to suffer from depressive symptoms that do not meet full criteria for a Major Depressive Episode [ref]. These youths tend to have difficulties functioning in their life roles in school and relationships, often come from families with high rates of Depression, and are at high risk for developing full-blown Major Depressive Episode [ref].

For unknown reasons, since statistics first started being recorded in the 1940s, it seems that Depression in children and adolescents has been getting more common and starting at earlier ages with each new generation [ref].

Course and Consequences of Depression in Youth

Depressions in children and adolescents typically last around 8 months, but in many cases the episode can be chronic [ref].  After one episode at these ages there is a 40% chance of having a second one in 2 years, and a 70% chance of having a second one in 5 years [ref].  

Experiencing Depression at this young age can stunt a child or adolescent's emotional, social and intellectual development and interfere with family relationships [ref]. These youths are at high risk for becoming involved in deliquent activities, running into trouble with the law, and also having teenage pregnancies [ref]. About 60% of these youths report having thoughts of suicide, and about 30% actually attempt suicide at some point [ref].

Associated Conditions (Comorbidity) of Depression in Youth

Half or more of these youths will suffer from other psychiatric disorders, including Anxiety Disorders, Disruptive Behavior Disorders, ADHD, and Substance Abuse [ref].

In many cases, a Depression during childhood or adolescence is in fact the beginning of a Bipolar Disorder [ref] (see here for further information on when to suspect that someone with Major Depression in fact has an underlying Bipolar Disorder).


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Associated Conditions

Depression in the Elderly