What Are the Risk Factors for Depression

What Are the Risk Factors for Depression

What Are the Risk Factors for Depression?

• Family and genetics. About 50% of depression is related to genes, and the other 50% is attributed to environmental factors. Having a parent or sibling with depression increases your risk of depression two- to threefold, but genomic research thus far has not found any "depression gene." Depression is likely caused not by a single gene mutation but by an interplay of many different genes. Inheriting a particular gene from a parent who has depression doesn't mean that one will inevitably suffer from depression. How gene mutation leads to depression is still an open question.

• Neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters support communication between neurons in the brain. Three major neurotransmitters are serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine. Serotonin regulates a multitude of physiological functions, including sleep, anger, eating, sexual desire, and emotion. Norepinephrine helps the body to cope with stress and dangerous situations. Dopamine controls pleasure and satisfaction. Depressed people have low levels of neurotransmitters in their brains. Insufficient neurotransmitters lead to mood disorders and depression.

• Gender. Women are twice as likely to suffer from depression compared to men. The higher incidence rate of depression in women is linked to female hormones. Premenstrual dysphoric disorder—characterized by severe depression, irritability, and premenstrual anxiety—is a psychiatric syndrome. Postpartum depression within one year after giving birth is common in new mothers. Hormonal fluctuation causes depression in premenopausal women. Men also suffer from depression, but they often try to hide it by drinking alcoholic beverages. Depressed men are more irritable and have low thresholds to cope with stress. More depressed women attempt suicide than men, but more depressed men die from suicide than women.

• Age. Although depression affects all age groups, adolescent youth are among the highest at risk. A depressed mother, disrupted family life, neglect, and mental and/or physical abuse, all cause depression in adolescent youth. Depressed adolescents are vulnerable to alcohol and drug abuse, exacerbating emotional and psychological problems. Depression is often associated with illnesses—such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, or cancer—in elderly people. The loss of one's life partner can also lead to depression. In the US, elderly people aged 85 and older have the highest suicide rate among all age groups.

• Diseases. Severe or chronic diseases can bring about a sense of despair and lead to depression. Chronic diseases—such as hypothyroidism, fibromyalgia, arthritis, stroke, heart failure, heart attack, insomnia, Alzheimer's disease, or Parkinson's disease— adversely affect the mood and increase the risk of depression. Medications also increase the risk of depression.

What Are the Complications Associated with Depression?

• Obesity

• Alcohol and substance abuse

• Anxiety, panic, and social phobia

• Family conflict, relationship stress, and problems in school and at work

• Suicidal thoughts or attempts

• Self-mutilation

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