Background: Little is known about long-term profiles of depressive and anxious symptomatology over the life course and about the developmental determinants of different trajectories. The objective of this study was to identify a novel typology of symptoms of depression and anxiety over the life course and examine its neurodevelopmental antecedents in an epidemiological sample.
Methods: A longitudinal latent variable analysis was conducted on measures of anxious and depressive symptoms at ages 13, 15, 36, 43, and 53 years among 4627 members of the Medical Research Council National Survey of Health & Development (the British 1946 birth cohort). Early life predictors of class membership were studied with ordinal logistic regression.
Results: We identified six distinct profiles up to age 53: absence of symptoms (44.8% of sample); repeated moderate symptoms (33.6%); adult-onset moderate symptoms (11.3%); adolescent symptoms with good adult outcome (5.8%); adult-onset severe symptoms (2.9%); and repeated severe symptoms over the life course (1.7%). Heavier babies had lower likelihood of depressive and anxious symptoms (odds ratio [OR] = .92; 95% confidence interval [CI] .85-.99), whereas delay in first standing (OR = 1.19; 95% CI 1.11-1.28) and walking (OR = 1.22; 95% CI 1.14-1.31) was associated with subsequent higher likelihood of symptoms, controlling for social circumstances and stressful life events during childhood.
Conclusions: There was evidence of distinct profiles of depressive and anxious symptomatology over the life course and associations with markers of neurodevelopment. This suggests very early factors are associated with long-term experience of symptoms of depression and anxiety.