Columbia University Medical Center
NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital The University Hospital of Columbia and Cornell
July 7, 2009

If you are feeling down, it can be hard to tell if you are experiencing a temporary case of the blues or a serious depression. Now a group of researchers say there is a relatively easy way to figure out whether some young adults are at greater risk of psychiatric problems or drug abuse -- just ask about their family...

The researchers found that the more relatives a person had with major depression, anxiety disorder, or alcohol or drug dependence, the more likely he or she was to have that condition too. And the stronger that family history, the greater a person's risk of having recurrent bouts of the condition and to report that it impaired his or her ability to function. These individuals were also at greater risk of being hospitalized for that condition, and to take medication to treat it.

The simple test was developed and published in 2000 by Myrna Weissman, Ph.D., a professor of epidemiology in psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center, in New York City, and the director of the Division of Epidemiology at the New York State Psychiatric Institute, and her colleagues.

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