Depression Home > Causes of Teen Depression

While the exact cause or causes of teen depression are not known, scientists know of a number of risk factors that can raise a teenager's risk of developing depression. Among these depression risk factors are stressful life events, physical factors, and a family history of depression. For example, between 20 percent and 50 percent of children and adolescents with depression have a family history of the illness. Scientists think that the more depression risk factors a teenager has, the more likely he or she is to become depressed.

Causes of Teen Depression: An Overview

Similar to depression in adults, scientists do not know the specific cause or causes of teen depression. They do believe that that the onset of depression is frequently caused by a combination of genetic, psychological, and environmental factors. In other words, there is no one cause of depression.

Are These Causes of Teen Depression -- Or Risk Factors?

While the search for depression causes is ongoing, scientists do know a number of factors that increase a person's chances of developing teenage depression. These are known as depression risk factors. Risk factors are not the same as causes of depression. While they do increase the chances of developing depression, they do not guarantee that a teen will develop depression.
A risk factor can potentially have no impact, little impact, or a profound impact. The impact of an individual risk factor can vary depending on a number of things, including differences among children, the age at which a child is exposed to the risk factor, and whether the risk factor occurs alone or is accompanied by other risk factors.
Some risk factors for teen depression include:
  • A family history of depression
  • A history of substance abuse
  • Certain medical conditions
  • Gender
  • Certain types of personalities
  • Physical factors
  • Stressful life events.
Family History
Research over the past decade strongly suggests a genetic link to depression. In other words, depression can run in families. In fact, between 20 percent and 50 percent of children and adolescents who have depression also have a family history of depression. The exact reasons for this increased risk are not known.
Depression research scientists have also found that children of depressed parents are more than three times as likely as children of parents who do not have depression to experience the illness. Parental depression also increases the risk of anxiety disorders, conduct disorder, and alcohol dependence. The risk is greater if both parents have had a depressive illness, if the parents were depressed when they were young, or if a parent had several episodes of depression.
It is not clear whether the relationship between parent and childhood depression results from genetic factors, or whether depressed parents create an environment that increases the likelihood of depression developing in their children.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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