First biomarker found for depression in teen boys

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Approximately 11% of teens in the US between 13 and 18 years old have suffered from severe depression at some point in their young lives. Researchers from the UK have discovered the first biomarker that can predict the likelihood of clinical depression in teen boys.

Hundreds of teens contributed to the study

The discovery could lead to a reduction in the number of people suffering from depression by providing an opportunity for early intervention. The research team, led by Prof. Ian Goodyer of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Cambridge, collected saliva samples from hundreds of boys and girls. From those samples, they were able to measure the level of cortisol in each teen. Cortisol is a stress hormone. The teens were asked to self-report any depression they experienced. Based on this information, the teens were divided into groups and studied for 12 and 36 months. At the end researchers could predict which group would most likely develop depressive symptoms among other psychiatric disorders.

Boys more than girls at risk

Among boys, those with depressive symptoms and high levels of cortisol were 14 times more likely to develop depression, compared to the other boys. Girls with depressive symptoms and high cortisol were only four times as likely. “Through our research, we now have a very real way of identifying those teenage boys most likely to develop clinical depression. This will help us strategically target preventions and interventions at these individuals and hopefully help reduce their risk of serious episodes of depression and their consequences in adult life,” noted Prof. Goodyer. “This could be a much needed way of reducing the number of people suffering from depression, and in particular stemming a risk at a time when there has been an increasing rate of suicide amongst teenage boys and young men.”

Source: MedicalNewsToday, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

 
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