Adolescent and adult differences in major depression symptom profiles

J Affect Disord. 2019 Jan 15:243:175-181. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2018.09.015. Epub 2018 Sep 11.


Background: Depression is the leading global cause of disability and often begins in adolescence. The genetic architecture and treatment response profiles for adults and adolescents differ even though identical criteria are used to diagnose depression across different age groups. There is no clear consensus on how these groups differ in their symptom profiles.

Methods: Using data from a two-generation family study, we compared the presentation of DSM-IV depressive symptoms in adolescents and adults with MDD (Major Depressive Disorder). We also compared DSM-IV depressive symptom counts using latent class analysis.

Results: Vegetative symptoms (appetite and weight change, loss of energy and insomnia) were more common in adolescent MDD than adult MDD. Anhedonia/loss of interest and concentration problems were more common in adults with MDD. When using latent class analysis to look at depressive symptoms, a vegetative symptom profile was also seen in adolescent depression only.

Limitations: Adults and adolescents were recruited in different ways. Adolescent cases were more likely to be first-onset while adult cases were recurrences. It was not possible to examine how recurrence affected adolescent depression symptom profiles.

Conclusion: Differences in how depression presents in adolescents and adults may be consistent with different pathophysiological mechanisms. For adolescents, we found that vegetative/physical disturbances were common (loss of energy, changes in weight, appetite and sleep changes). For adults, anhedonia/loss of interest and concentration difficulties were more common.

Keywords: Adolescent; Adult; Child; Depression; Profile; Vegetative.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior / psychology*
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Depression / diagnosis*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / diagnosis*
  • Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Recurrence