Objective: Depression has been identified as a priority disorder among children and adolescents. While numerous reviews have examined the individual and family factors that contribute to child and adolescent depressive symptoms, less is known about community-level risk and protective factors. The aim of this study was to complete a systematic review to identify community risk and protective factors for depression in school-aged children (4-18 years).
Method: The review adopted the procedures recommended by the Cochrane Non-Randomised Studies Methods Working Group and the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines. A comprehensive literature search was conducted to identify both observational and intervention study designs in both peer-reviewed and non-peer reviewed publications.
Results: A total of 21 studies met the inclusion criteria. Seventeen of the 18 community association studies and 2 of the 3 intervention studies reported one or more significant effects. Results indicated that community safety and community minority ethnicity and discrimination act as risk factors for depressive symptoms in school-aged children. Community disadvantage failed to achieve significance in meta-analytic results but findings suggest that the role of disadvantage may be influenced by other factors. Community connectedness was also not directly associated with depressive symptoms.
Conclusion: There is evidence that a number of potentially modifiable community-level risk and protective factors influence child and adolescent depressive symptoms suggesting the importance of continuing research and intervention efforts at the community-level.
Keywords: Adolescence; children; community risk and protective factors; depression; depressive symptoms; emotional disorders; intervention studies; meta-analysis; systematic review.
© The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists 2015.