The Progression of Depression, Ages 5 to 30


A recent study done by the Oregon Research Institute looked at the course of major depressive disorder (MDD) through four life stages.

They wanted to determine how MDD manifested during the four time periods. The research subjects were 816 individuals participating in the Oregon Adolescent Depression Project.

The study was done with questionnaires as well as assessment interviews by trained and supervised mental health workers with degrees in related disciplines.

The study collected data from four developmental periods:

  1. Childhood: 5-12.9 years
  2. Adolescence: 13-17.9 years
  3. Emerging adulthood: 18-23.9 years
  4. Adulthood: 24-30 years

The study used the following defining criteria:

MDD recovery: a person having eight or more consecutive weeks with no symptoms, or minor symptoms.
MDD recurrence: a person who meets all of the criteria for MDD after a period of recovery.

What the Study Found

  • - 51% of the participants had an MDD episode by the age of 30; more than half of the 51% had at least one recurrent episode also by the age of 30.
  • - In all four time periods, a predictor for MDD was being female.
  • - MDD episodes during the childhood period, though infrequent, lasted longer than MDD episodes in the other three developmental stages.
  • - Having an MDD episode in one stage puts a person at higher risk for recurrent MDD in the following stages.
  • - Although the incidence of MDD was fairly consistent from ages 13 through 30, the highest number of suicide attempts was during the adolescent period.
  • - Out of the 51% that had an MDD diagnosis by age 30, around 19% attempted suicide at least once by the fourth developmental stage.
  • - In all four stages, MDD was associated with substance abuse and anxiety disorder diagnoses.

Source: Association for Psychological Science


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