Children of Depressed Parents at Mental Health Risk Through Adulthood
> 6/6/2006 9:40:24 AM

It has long been understood that children of parents afflicted with depression are themselves at an increased risk for depression as well as anxiety disorders and drug abuse. But for the first time, researchers from Columbia University have demonstrated that this increased risk lasts well into adulthood. In their study, published in this month's American Journal of Psychiatry, the group led by Dr. Myrna M. Weissman performed a 20 year follow-up with a group of 101 individuals of whom had at least one parent with depression as well as 50 people who's parents were free of depression.

The results, while not a total shock, are still pretty staggering:

Offspring of a depressed parent were three times as likely to have anxiety disorder, major depression or substance dependence, the researchers found, and they were also at greater risk of social impairment on the job or in family life.

Also, by age 35, the researchers found, offspring of depressed parents were five times as likely to report heart or blood vessel disease and more than twice as likely to have some type of neuromuscular disorder. Overall, they were at double the risk of medical illness compared to offspring of non-depressed parents.

These results show that having at least one depressed parent can put an individual at risk over the course of their lifetime for a variety of mental as well as physical health conditions. It is important that doctors, especially general practitioners who often act as the frontline, to be aware of their patient's family mental health history. With this information both doctor and patient can be more aware of potential risks. Early detection can save untold hardships as well as real monetary expenses. This news should not come as a burden to anyone with a family history checkered with depression or other mental health issues, but instead should serve as a tool to help them better live their own lives.

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