Major depression in adolescence can reoccur in adulthood and diminish quality of life

August 24, 2003

WASHINGTON -- Young adults who experienced an episode of major depression in adolescence may be more vulnerable to a relapse in adulthood that could significantly affect their quality of life, say researchers in a study on the psychosocial functioning of adults who have recovered from major depression.

This study, reported on in the August issue of the Journal of Abnormal Psychology, published by the American Psychological Association (APA), examined 851 adolescents from the Oregon Adolescent Depression Project twice before age 19 on measures of depression and then again at 24 on how well they were functioning to determine if those who had a major depressive disorder (MDD) and recovered were functioning better or worse than those who did not have any disorders versus those who experienced other psychological disorders but did not have MDD as adolescents, said lead author Peter M. Lewinsohn of the Oregon Research Institute and colleagues.

According to the study, young adults who experienced an episode of major depressive disorder (MDD) during adolescence (before age 18) showed pervasive impairments across many areas of their life by their mid-20s. They were more likely to perform poorly at work, have social difficulties, have a low quality of life and physical well-being, said the authors. Those young adults had more trouble than other young adults who experienced psychological problems other than MDD. The other life areas affected by MDD were low academic performance, early childbearing and marriage, use of mental health services and experiencing a major adversity.

From an initial sample of 1,709 participants, 319 had experienced an episode of MDD. By age 19, 208 had had an adolescent non-mood disorder such as anxiety disorders, alcohol abuse/dependence, drug abuse/dependence, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder/disruptive behavior disorders. The remaining 324 participants had experienced no mental disorder by age 19.

Adolescent MDD was associated with pervasive difficulties in young adult functioning and 62.3 percent of the adolescent MDD group experienced a mental disorder in young adulthood (19-24). [For example, they were less likely to have graduated from college, to have been unemployed during the preceding year, to have experienced more stressful life events and to have experienced a greater number of physical health problems.]

These results suggest that experiencing depression in adolescence is associated with many subsequent problems in young adult functioning, and emphasize the importance of developing effective interventions aimed at preventing the incidence of depression during adolescence.
Article: "Psychosocial Functioning of Young Adults Who Have Experienced and Recovered From Major Depressive Disorder During Adolescence," Peter M. Lewinsohn, Ph.D., Paul Rohde, Ph.D., and John R. Seeley, Ph.D., Oregon Research Institute; Daniel N. Klein, Ph.D., State University of New York at Stony Brook; Ian H. Gotlib, Ph.D., Stanford University; Journal of Abnormal Psychology, Vol. 112, No. 3.

Full text of the article is available from the APA Public Affairs Office or at

Peter M. Lewinsohn, PhD can be reached by phone at 541-984-0460, ext. 2122 or by email,

The American Psychological Association (APA), in Washington, DC, is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States and is the world's largest association of psychologists. APA's membership includes more than 150,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through its divisions in 53 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 60 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance psychology as a science, as a profession and as a means of promoting health, education and human welfare.

American Psychological Association

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