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New Research Suggests Minor Depression in Teens May Indicate Risk for Major Depression Later

Columbia Psychiatry Leads New Study
August 31, 2009

Teenagers who experience minor depression are at greater risk of serious depression, anxiety and eating disorders as adults, according to new research.

The study, carried out by Dr. Jeffrey Johnson and colleagues in the department of psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center and the New York State Psychiatric Institute, is published in the September issue of the British Journal of Psychiatry.

In 1983, researchers interviewed 755 adolescents who were aged around 16-years-old. The interview was designed to find out if the teenagers had any mood, anxiety, disruptive, eating, or substance use disorders. The participants were re-interviewed in their early-20s and again in their early-30s.

Of the 755 teenagers interviewed, 62 (8.2%) had minor depression. Minor depression is a mood disorder lasting at least two weeks, with similar but milder symptoms than clinical depression. Symptoms may include feeling down, losing interest in activities (anhedonia), sleeping problems, and poor concentration.

The researchers found that teenagers with minor depression were significantly more likely to have major depression when they reached their 20s and 30s than those who did not show signs of depression in their teens.

In addition, teenagers with minor depression were at greater risk of developing anxiety disorders and eating disorders in adulthood.

"The study findings emphasize the importance of providing needed assistance and support to youths who have two or more persistent symptoms of depression," said Dr. Johnson.

The researchers have called for further studies to investigate if minor depression in adolescence contributes to the development of more serious problems in later life, or if it is a


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