Kerryn Boogaard Kerryn Boogaard
Beverly Goldsmith Beverly Goldsmith
Zoe Bingley-Pullin Zoe Bingley-Pullin

Biomarker could help teenage boys at risk of depression:

Scientists have identified the first biomarker for clinical depression which could help find boys who are at risk of developing the debilitating illness.
By Reuters
Date: February 20 2014
Editor Rating:
depressed-teenage-boy

In a study in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science (PNAS) journal, a team of British brain scientists ahs found that teenage boys who have a combination of depressive symptoms and raised levels of the stress hormone cortisol are up to 14 times more likely to develop major depression than those who show neither trait.

The findings suggest teenagers could in future be screened for such signals, and those at highest risk could be helped to develop the kind of coping strategies and "brain fitness" to help them avoid becoming depressive.

"We're very bad about looking after our mental health, and yet the problems of mental health are extremely common," said Professor Barbara Sahakian, Professor of Clinical Neuropsychology at Cambridge University, who worked on the study.

"Depression is one of the greatest global burdens of disease - it's a much bigger problem than heart disease or cancer and it's much more expensive."

Depression affects around 350 million people worldwide and at its worst can blight patients' lives for decades, affecting their relationships, work and ability to function. It can also lead to suicide, which alone leads to a million deaths a year.

"Depression is a terrible illness," said Dr Ian Goodyer, a child and adolescent psychiatrist who led the research team.

"(And) we now have a very real way of identifying those teenage boys most likely to develop clinical depression."

He said armed with such knowledge, doctors and other carers could target prevention strategies at depression-vulnerable boys and "hopefully help reduce their risk of serious episodes of depression and their consequences in adult life".

According to the World Health Organisation, prevention programs - including boosting cognitive, problem-solving and social skills in children - have been shown to reduce depression, and earlier intervention is more effective.

Depression triggers

Different factors are thought to influence the development of depression, including genetics, brain chemistry, lifestyle and upbringing. Key triggers for the condition can include stressful life events, medical illness and alcohol abuse.

For their study, Dr Goodyear's team measured levels of cortisol in saliva from two large separate groups of teenagers. The first group of 660 provided samples on four school mornings within a week and then again 12 months later. A second group of 1,198 teenagers gave samples over three school mornings.

Using self-reports, collected over 12 months, of any symptoms of depression - such as feeling sad or anxious - and combining them with the cortisol results, the researchers then divided the teenagers into four sub-groups ranging from those with normal levels of cortisol and low symptoms of depression in Group 1 through to those teenagers with more cortisol and high symptoms of depression in Group 4.

Tracking the teenagers for three years, the team found that those in Group 4 were on average seven times more likely than those in Group 1, and two to three times more likely than in the other two groups, to develop clinical depression.

Further analysis showed that boys in Group 4 were 14 times more likely to develop clinical depression than those in Group 1, and two to four times more likely to develop it than either of the other two groups.

* * *

If you or someone you know needs support for a mental health issue, please contact:

  • SANE on 1800 18 72 63
  • Kids Help Line on 1800 55 1800, or
Share This Tweet This Email To Friend
Related Articles
selfhelp-depression-partner
Some simple steps to help make sure depression doesn't get…
Read more
child-depressed
Depression can strike at any age.
Read more
mindspot
A new and free online mental health clinic developed by…
Read more
gosselin_girls
Your teenager can be your friend for life if you…
Read more
Shipping-containers-freight-wallpaper-preview

Latest Tech Used In Shipping Containers
Read how the shipping industry has revolutionised

Motherpedia cover-2

Win 1 set of a 4-book hardcover illustrated boxed set
Barbara Murray’s new 4-book Sound Stories is perfect for parents and educators and could assist with NAPLAN results

Motherpedia cover (4)

Where to celebrate Oktoberfest Australia
Get ready for this celebration!

Vtech giveaway motherpedia

Win 1 of 3 VTech Toys Pack Giveaway
Playtime is so much more with VTech

Motherpedia cover-4

A Fortnight of Foodie Experiences at East Village
A taste of East Village. What's in it for me?

Globber my too fix up cover

We Try: Globber My TOO Fix Up
A scooter that grows with your child

Throw a winning cricket pitch

3 Steps to a Winning Backyard Cricket Pitch
Ex-Adelaide Oval legend curator Les Burdett shares his tips for getting your backyard cricket pitch test match ready this summer

A bike that follows your kids life cycle - motherpedia - cover

A Bike That Follows Your Kids Life Cycle
Check out the Bunzi 2-in-1 gradual balance bike!

Moonlight lifestyle

Moonlight Cinema to bring…
Moonlight Cinema announces brand new Western Sydney venue

Screen shot 2019-11-26 at 8.29.12 am

Your Magical Christmas Wonderland…
Adventure park is about to light up the night sky with its "Christmas Festival of Lights"

Screen shot 2019-11-21 at 11.11.36 am

The Preston Market Gets…
It's time to feel pumped up for the holiday season!

Bruno-kelzer-zqzuigxcvrq-unsplash

Bunnings team members get…
Help raise funds by buying a snag or donating at your local store.