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Depressed Teens Continue to Suffer

Those with mild depression more likely to suffer major episode later, researchers say

FRIDAY, Sept. 4 (HealthDay News) -- Mildly depressed teenagers are more likely to have major depression, anxiety disorders and eating disorders as adults, a new study suggests.

In 1983, researchers interviewed 755 teenagers who were about age 16 about mood, anxiety and eating disorders, disruptive behaviors and substance abuse.

About 8 percent were found to have minor depression, defined as feeling down, losing interest in normal activities, and having insomnia or difficulty concentrating for two weeks or more. The symptoms of minor depression are similar to, but less severe, than those of a major depressive episode.

Researchers followed up with the teens when they were in their early 20s and in their early 30s, and found that teenagers who had had minor depression were significantly more likely to have major depression in adulthood.

Depressed teens were also more likely to have anxiety and eating disorders as adults.

The study appears in the September issue of the British Journal of Psychiatry.

"The study findings emphasize the importance of providing needed assistance and support to youths who have two or more persistent symptoms of depression," said Jeffrey Johnson of the department of psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center and the New York State Psychiatric Institute.

Based on the findings, researchers could not say if mild depression in adolescence contributes to the development of major depression later in life, or if the mild depression is an early phase of major depressive disorder.

The data used in the study was from the Children in the Community Study, a longitudinal study of health issues in adolescence and their impact on mental health in adulthood.

More information

For more about teens and depression, see Mental Health America.

-- Jennifer Thomas

SOURCE: British Journal of Psychiatry, news release, Sept. 1, 2009

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