Childhood adversities, adult risk factors and depressiveness: a population study

Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol. 2005 Sep;40(9):700-6. doi: 10.1007/s00127-005-0969-x. Epub 2005 Sep 15.


Objective: Childhood adversities have been associated with adulthood depressiveness, but the contribution of adult risk factors is seldom described. We examined whether adult risk factors lie on the pathway from childhood adversity to adult depressiveness (pathway hypothesis) or whether the association depends on life events (vulnerability hypothesis).

Method: Among 21,101 randomly sampled working-aged respondents [the Health and Social Support in Finland (HeSSup) Study], the hypotheses were tested with logistic regression analysis models studying the associations between Beck Depression Inventory (BDI)-assessed depressiveness and self-reported childhood adversities alone and in combination with recent adverse events.

Results: Childhood adversities were consistently associated with depressiveness (women, age-adjusted odds ratio 3.1, 95% confidence intervals 2.6-3.7; men, 2.6, 2.1-3.3), although the risks were decreased by more than 30% after adjustments for adult risk factors such as living alone, education, alcohol consumption, social support and negative affectivity. Childhood adversities combined with recent life events were associated with depressiveness in an additive manner. Women with childhood adversities and recent person-independent events especially had increased vulnerability for depressiveness.

Conclusions: The childhood adversity-depressiveness associations were partly mediated by adult risk factors, supporting a pathway from childhood adversities to depressiveness through adult risk factors. Increased vulnerability for depressiveness was found among respondents with childhood adversities in combination with recent death/illness events. The findings emphasize the importance of early risk factors when identifying persons at risk of depression.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child
  • Depressive Disorder / epidemiology*
  • Divorce / statistics & numerical data
  • Family / psychology
  • Female
  • Finland / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Life Change Events*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Parenting
  • Population Surveillance / methods
  • Risk Factors