Abused kids may face stubborn depression as adults

"Numerous studies have shown that childhood abuse and parental addictions make individuals more vulnerable to depression,” says co-author Marla Battiston. “Our research highlights that these factors also slow the recovery time among those who become depressed.” (Credit: Bradley Gordon/Flickr)

Adults who experienced childhood physical abuse or parental addictions may face a longer recovery time from depression.

University of Toronto investigators examined a range of factors associated with remission in a sample of 1,128 depressed Canadian adults, drawn from the National Population Health Survey. Depressed individuals were followed every other year until remission occurred, for up to 12 years.

“Our findings indicated that most people bounce back. In fact, three-quarters of individuals were no longer depressed after two years,” says Professor Emeriti Tahany M. Gadalla, a co-author of the study.

Not everyone recovers at the same rate

“Early adversities have far-reaching consequences. The average time to recovery from depression was 9 months longer for adults who had been physically abused during their childhood and about 5 months longer for those whose parents had addiction problems” says lead author Esme Fuller-Thomson, of the University of Toronto’s Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work.

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“Numerous studies have shown that childhood abuse and parental addictions make individuals more vulnerable to depression,” says co-author Marla Battiston. “Our research highlights that these factors also slow the recovery time among those who become depressed.”

Although this study could not determine why childhood adversities are associated with poor depression outcomes, the researchers speculate that negative experiences may interrupt the normal development of the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis, which affects stress regulation.

“In many studies, adult depression has been characterized by HPA axis hyperactivity,” says Sarah Brennenstuhl, co-author and recent PhD graduate. “This link is an important avenue for future research.”

The findings are published in the journal Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology.

Source: University of Toronto