Background: This study used longitudinal data to examine the extent to which young people with depression in mid adolescence (ages 14-16) were at increased risk of adverse psychosocial outcomes in later adolescence and young adulthood (ages 16-21).
Methods: Data were gathered during a 21-year longitudinal study of a birth cohort of 1265 children. Measures included assessments of DSM-III-R major depression (at age 14-16); psychiatric disorders, educational achievement, and social functioning (at age 16-21); social, familial, and individual factors; and comorbid disorders.
Results: Thirteen percent of the cohort developed depression between ages 14 and 16. Young people with depression in adolescence were at significantly (P<.05) increased risk of later major depression, anxiety disorders, nicotine dependence, alcohol abuse or dependence, suicide attempt, educational underachievement, unemployment, and early parenthood. These associations were similar for girls and boys. The results suggested the presence of 2 major pathways linking early depression to later outcomes. First, there was a direct linkage between early depression and increased risk of later major depression or anxiety disorders. Second, the associations between early depression and other outcomes were explained by the presence of confounding social, familial, and individual factors.
Conclusions: Young people having early depression were at increased risk of later adverse psychosocial outcomes. There was a direct linkage in which early depression was associated with increased risk of later major depression and anxiety disorders. Linkages between early depression and other outcomes appeared to reflect the effects of confounding factors.