Childhood Depression May Be Tied to Later Heart Risk: Study

(HealthDay News) — Teens who were depressed as children are more likely to be obese, to smoke and to be sedentary, a new study finds.

The findings suggest that depression during childhood can increase the risk of heart problems later in life, according to the researchers.

The study included more than 500 children who were followed from ages 9 to 16. There were three groups: those diagnosed with depression as children, their depression-free siblings and a control group of unrelated youngsters with no history of depression.

Twenty-two percent of the kids who were depressed at age 9 were obese at age 16, the study found. “Only 17 percent of their siblings were obese, and the obesity rate was 11 percent in the unrelated children who never had been depressed,” study first author Robert Carney, a professor of psychiatry at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, said in a university news release.

The researchers found similar patterns when they looked at smoking and physical activity.

via Childhood Depression May Be Tied to Later Heart Risk: Study.

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Childhood Bullying and Depression

5959I was bullied through much of my childhood, beginning when I was seven years old, which was when we moved from New Jersey to a wealthy town in Connecticut in which sports were worshipped. I was, to put it mildly, not very good at sports. Not only was I somewhat uncoordinated, but my Attention Deficit Disorder (or complete lack of interest) caused me to space out when the phys-ed teacher was explaining the rules of whatever game we were about to play. When we were subsequently playing, of course, I wouldn’t have any idea what was going on and would screw things up for my team. Or I’d be daydreaming in left field and miss a ball coming right at me.

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Recognizing Depression in Children

Image: Boys in the Pasture by Winslow Homer
Boys in the Pasture by Winslow Homer

Most of my childhood was blighted by clinical depression. After I was diagnosed at age 27, my parents told me that they knew something was wrong, but didn’t know what. Not surprising, since I grew up in the 1960s and 70s, and depression in children wasn’t even considered a possibility until the 1980s. But even today, years after the medical community acknowledged that children could be clinically depressed, it is not easy to recognize.

There are a couple of reasons why this is the case. Although more and more people are becoming aware that clinical depression is not a mood but a disease, there are still plenty of people who don’t realize that. So while they might be able to find reasons why an adult might be depressed (trouble with the person’s job or marriage, financial difficulties, etc.) there are generally few reasons that a child might be displaying a sad demeanor, barring major loss of some kind or a dysfunctional home life.

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What are the Risk Factors for Childhood Depression?

Venetian Interior by John Singer Sargent

I had untreated clinical depression starting from a young age. When I was finally diagnosed at age 27, I started trying to figure out why this had happened to me.

Why would a child suffer from depression? What are the factors that can combine to create depression in a young child? In many cases, one of the usual suspects is a family history of mental illness. But there was no such history on either side of my family. So I started looking for other explanations.

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