Adolescents with Depression Grown up Education, Intimate Relationships, Mental Health, and Personality

University dissertation from Uppsala : Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis

Abstract: Unipolar depression, estimated to be the leading contributor to burden of disease in middle- and high-income countries, often has an onset in adolescence. The disorder is associated with substantial role impairment and is highly recurrent. This raises questions about both subsequent mental health and social outcome. In order to shed light on this, a community sample of adolescents with depression and non-depressed peers was followed-up after 15 years.In 1991-93, first-year students in upper secondary school (age 16-17) in the town of Uppsala, Sweden, were screened for depression. Adolescents with positive screening and selected peers with negative screening (n=631 in total) were assessed regarding mental health, social situation, and personality. At around age 31, the participants were followed-up in both national registers (n=609) and personal interviews (n=409). Outcome regarding social factors, mental health, and personality was assessed.At follow-up, the former depressed adolescents had completed higher education to a lesser extent than the former non-depressed adolescents. The females with adolescent depression were also at increased risk of subsequent abortion, divorce, single parenthood, and partner violence. Characteristics associated with depression in adolescence (such as poor school performance and disruptive disorders) seemed to contribute to the poor outcome in the social domain.Regarding adult mental health, long-term depression in adolescence was associated with a particularly poor outcome. Compared to adolescents with shorter episodes of depression, those with long-term depression were more likely to report recurrent depression, suicidal ideation, and a range of other mental disorders in adulthood.Measures of personality traits related to neuroticism (a tendency towards negative emotionality) were elevated during ongoing depression and anxiety disorders, but were normalized with remission. However, repeated depressive episodes seemed to leave the individual more vulnerable to stress.It is now important to assess if early treatment can alter the poor outcome depicted in this thesis. Since social adversity, educational difficulties, and interpersonal problems accompany the depressive disorder from adolescence onward, it should also be investigated if interventions aimed at such contextual factors can prevent recurrence and improve quality of life.