Risk and protective factors for depressive symptomatology among a community sample of adolescents and young adults

Aust N Z J Public Health. 2002 Dec;26(6):555-62. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-842x.2002.tb00366.x.


Objectives: The study explores the risk and protective factors for current depressive symptomatology in a large community sample of 15-to-24-year-olds.

Methods: The study was designed as a cross-sectional household survey, which used telephone recruitment followed by an anonymous self-report postal questionnaire. The final sample included 3,082 adolescents and young adults from Queensland, Australia.

Results: The vast majority of measured risk and protective factors were associated with current depressive symptomatology. Key risk factors included high levels of neuroticism, perceived problems with parents, sexual abuse, relationship break-ups, educational failure and sexual identity conflict. A different profile of protective factors was evident for each of these high-risk groups. Of particular note was the importance of well-developed intrapersonal skills as protective for both males and females. The significance of social connectedness as a protective factor for the males overall and across a range of high-risk groups was a central finding.

Conclusions and implications: The implications of these findings in relation to a range of mental health promotion and mental illness prevention and early intervention initiatives are discussed. Supported initiatives include parenting programs that consider the realities of modem families, increasing community awareness of the impact on young people of the breakdown of their intimate relationships, initiatives in educational settings and workplaces to increase tolerance of gay/lesbian and bisexual lifestyles and the enhancement of social connectedness.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depression / epidemiology*
  • Depression / etiology
  • Family Characteristics
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Queensland / epidemiology
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors