Researchers can predict depression risk for children and adolescents

Researchers can predict depression risk for children and adolescents

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Predict risk of depression for children and adolescents based on a genetic profile

An international team of researchers has now found out for the first time that a genetic profile can be used to predict whether there is an increased genetic risk of depression in children and adolescents. This offers the opportunity to use effective prevention strategies.

Study with 2,000 children and adolescents

In a study, it was possible for the first time to use a genetic profile to predict the risk of developing depression in children and adolescents. As part of this scientific work under the direction of the Max Planck Institute for Psychiatry (MPI) in Munich and the clinic and polyclinic for child and adolescent psychiatry, psychosomatics and psychotherapy at the LMU Munich (KJP), more than 2,000 children and adolescents were genetically, examined with questionnaires and clinical interviews. The study results were published in the specialist journal "American Journal of Psychiatry".

The number of people with depression is increasing

More and more people are suffering from depression.

Even in preschool children, the mental illness is diagnosed.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), depression is one of the most common mental illnesses today, which begins in childhood and adolescence and can lead to severe psychosocial impairments and suicidality.

According to health experts, the mental illness can usually be treated well as long as it is recognized early.

However, despite many diagnostic and treatment options in Germany, fewer than 50 percent of children and adolescents in need of treatment receive care. The disease is often discovered too late.

Illness often begins in childhood

As the Max Planck Institute for Psychiatry writes in a statement, genetic, neurobiological, social and psychological factors are seen as causes that can mutually reinforce each other.

Although the disease can occur at any age, it often begins in childhood and adolescence.

In order to be able to develop effective and targeted help to prevent depression as early as possible, the identification of risk factors that contribute to the development of the disease is central.

Important findings on the genetics of the disease

According to the MPI, the international research team, which also includes Emory University, Atlanta (USA) and the universities of Coimbra (Portugal) and Helsinki (Finland), has now found out for the first time that a genetic profile can be used to predict whether an increased there is a genetic risk of depression in children and adolescents.

In the past year, large genome-wide studies in adults have brought important insights into the genetics of depression.

The scientists now tested whether the genetic profiles can also be used to predict the development, severity and onset of illness in children and adolescents.

"This risk profile was found for the first time on the basis of 460,000 adults with depression," said the study's first author, Dr. Thorhildur Halldorsdottir from the MPI.

"Building on this, we were able to show in three samples in children and adolescents, in hospital patients and in two epidemiological samples, that the risk profile influences both the clinical diagnosis of depression and depressive symptoms."

Improve early diagnosis

"This study has taken an important step towards understanding the complex genetic causes of depression in children and adolescents," said Professor Dr. med. Gerd Schulte-K├Ârne, director of the KJP.

"However, the score only explains an increase in risk and not the illness!"

It could also be shown that in children and adolescents already suffering from depression there is a connection between an increased genetic risk profile and the severity of the depressive illness and the age of the first illness.

Childhood abuse experiences represent an additional risk factor for the development of depression and depressive symptoms.

"There is still a lot of work to be done to improve the early diagnosis of depression in adolescents," said Max Planck Director and head of the study, Professor Dr. Dr. Elisabeth Binder.

"However, if we know which children are more likely to develop depression, we have the opportunity to use effective prevention strategies and reduce the enormous burden of depression," explained Binder.

Depression prevention measures

To prevent depression, you should exercise regularly. One hour of exercise a week reduces the risk of depression.

In addition, you should take care of relaxation, for example through autogenic training, yoga or reading.

Diet can also help reduce the risk of depression. It is recommended to eat healthy, varied and wholesome. Recommended foods include vegetables, fruits and unsalted nuts.

Dietary supplements do little to help prevent depression, as a study has shown.

Other preventive measures: keep alcohol consumption low and avoid nicotine. In addition, care should be taken to ensure a sufficiently long sleep. (ad)

Author and source information

Video: Diet Quality and Depression in Children, Adolescents and Adults - AProf Felice Jacka (January 2023).