Offspring's Risk of Depression.




Arch Gen Psychiatry

Related Monographs

Consumer Data: Depression
Professional Data: Depression


Depression has been classified as a mood disorder or "affective" disorder. Mood is defined as a powerful, sustained emotion that, in the extreme, markedly affects a person's perception of the world and ability to adequately function in society.1 Mood disorders are among the most common health problems doctors see every day. Mood disorders are divided into two major categories: depressive disorders and bipolar disorders.

Mood disorders, depression, and anxiety are common illnesses in our society. Lost work time, family conflicts, personal strife, and other consequences of the disease can eventually lead to complete disruption of one's life. Depression and mood disorders have become increasingly recognized as widespread health problems. In spite of this they are often under-diagnosed and under-treated.

Depression is not simply "all in the head." Depression has physical causes, linked to abnormalities in brain chemistry. The symptoms of major depression consistently reflect changes in "neurotransmitters," substances that regulate function of the brain and nervous system. The neurotransmitters closely related to depression are norepinephrine, serotonin, and dopamine.2

A recent study investigated the relationship between depressive disorders in adults and the occurrence of these disorders in their children. From the Early Developmental Stages of Psychopathology Study, data on 2,427 young adults was taken at baseline and at a 4-year follow-up. Medical information on these individual's parents was gathered from interviews. The results of this study showed that children having one or both parents affected from a depressive disorder, had an increased risk for depression. In addition, these children had a higher risk for substance abuse or anxiety disorders. Children of clinically depressed parents had an earlier onset of this disorder as well as greater severity and reoccurrence. There was no variation in depressive disorder risk whether the mother or father was affected. The authors of this study concluded that, "Major depression in parents increases the overall risk in offspring for onset of depressive and other mental disorders and influences patterns of the natural course of depression in the early stages of manifestation."3


1. Kando JC, Wells BG, Hayes PE. Depressive Disorders, In: Dipiro JT, et al eds. Pharmacotherapy, a Pathophysiologic Approach, 4th ed. Stamford, Connecticut: Appleton & Lange; 1999:1141-1160.
2. Gold PW, Goodwin FK, Chrousus GP. Clinical and biochemical manifestations of depression in relation to the neuorbiology of stress, part I. N Engl J Med. 1988;319:348-353.
3. Lieb R. Parental Major Depression and the Risk of Depression and Other Mental Disorders in Offspring. Arch Gen Psychiatry.Apr 2002;59:365-374.