Exploring the Association of Age with Depressive Symptomatology in Childhood and Adolescence: A Network Study

J Clin Child Adolesc Psychol. 2022 Aug 8;1-11. doi: 10.1080/15374416.2022.2096044. Online ahead of print.

Abstract

Objective: This study aimed to explore the association of age with individual depression and anxiety symptoms and their connectivity (i.e., number/strength of connections with other symptoms) in girls and boys.

Method: Our study comprised cross-sectional data from 31,960 Dutch girls and 32,162 Dutch boys aged 8 to 18 and considered 11 depression symptoms and 14 anxiety symptoms measured by the Revised Child Anxiety and Depression Scale. Network estimations were used to examine whether age was associated with individual symptoms and, in a separate step, with the connectivity of depression symptoms with other depression symptoms and with the connectivity of depression symptoms with anxiety symptoms.

Results: Age was, in general, positively associated with depression symptoms in girls, but not in boys, and with the connectivity of depression symptoms with other depression symptoms in both sexes. These findings were the most profound for energy-related symptoms in girls. Age was, in general, negatively associated with anxiety symptoms and not or negatively associated with the connectivity of depression symptoms with anxiety symptoms in girls and boys, respectively. Substantial differences across symptoms were found.

Conclusions: This study shows that it is important to focus on individual symptoms, for age is mainly associated with energy-related depression symptoms and their connectivity in girls. Future etiologic studies may examine the role of energy-related depression symptoms in the development of depressive symptomatology in girls as these symptoms seem potential targets for the prevention of depression in the female population.