Objective: This study examined whether adolescents having a first onset of major depression are changed by the experience (i.e., does having an episode of depression result in residual effects that did not exist before the episode?).
Method: Among 1,507 community adolescents assessed at two time points approximately 1 year apart 45 experienced and recovered from a first episode of depression between the two assessments. These adolescents were contrasted with never-depressed control subjects on an array of depression-related psychosocial variables before and after the episode.
Results: Psychosocial scars (characteristics evident after but not before the episode) included internalizing behavior problems, stressful major life events, excessive emotional reliance on others, cigarette smoking and subsyndromal depression symptoms. Both before and after the episode, the depressed adolescents reported an elevated level of physical health problems.
Conclusions: More scars were found in the present study than in previous research with formerly depressed adults. This is consistent with the hypothesis that early-onset depression is a more pernicious form of the disorder that may impact adolescents more severely than adults.