What are some of the biggest risk factors for developing depression?
The three biggest risk factors for developing depression are: (1) Genetic predisposition. Many individuals that meet criteria for major depressive disorder have a significant family history for depression. Treating clinicians should always thoroughly examine the depressed client’s “family tree” for depression. (2) Environmental events. Individuals that have recently experienced situational factors such as the death of a loved one or close friend, a recent divorce or job loss are at risk for developing depression. (3) Physical illness. Physical illnesses such as diabetes and hypothyroidism are major contributors to depressive symptom emergence.
Are women more likely to develop depression than men? Why or why not?
Women are twice as likely to develop depression compared to men. It is a myth that this is primarily a hormonal issue. Instead, women are at twice the risk due to discrimination, poverty, oppression and the stresses of single parenthood.
Are there certain ethnicities that are more likely to be depressed than others?
Approximately 30 percent of Hispanics report suffering depression compared to 26 percent for whites, 20 percent for blacks, and 16 percent for Asians. However, approximately 75 percent of whites with self-reported depression go on to receive an official diagnosis vs. 62 percent for Hispanics, 58 percent for blacks and 47 percent for Asians.
If so, do we understand at all why this is?
Although a higher percentage of Hispanics REPORT suffering depression for example, they are less likely to be DIAGNOSED. This tells us that reporting symptoms does NOT correlate with recognizing depression and subsequently seeking a diagnosis. Factors impinging upon this lack of follow-up include: Poverty, lower socioeconomic status, low education attainment (less than an 8th grade education), and decreased access to mental health services.
What other issues seem to play a role in making one person more likely to be depressed than someone else?
Many people that eventually meet depression criteria take prescription medications that contribute to or even worsen the depression. Examples are medications for high blood pressure such as the “beta blockers.” Brand names of these drugs are Inderal and Tenormin. Medications used for the treatment of Parkinsons disease and corticosteroids for inflammatory conditions are other examples. Also, substance abuse complicates every aspect of both diagnosing and treating depression.
If you have any of these risk factors, is there anything you can do to protect yourself or minimize the effects of depression?
Nothing can be done about genetic predisposition other than recognizing family history and monitoring oneself for possible symptom development. If symptoms develop due to predisposition or environmental events, seeking the services of an experienced psychotherapist can be most helpful. Other ways to minimize the effects of depression are exercise (brisk walking three times per week), proper diet (high Omega-3 fatty acid consumption), and regular exposure to bright light.