Disclosures: Weissman reports receiving research funding from the Brain and Behavior Foundation, the NIMH, the Sackler Foundation and the Templeton Foundation; book royalties from APA Publishing, Oxford Press and Perseus Press; and royalties on the social adjustment scale from Multihealth Systems. Please see the study for all other authors’ relevant financial disclosures.
April 23, 2021
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Family depression history increases children's risk for depressive, other mental disorders

Disclosures: Weissman reports receiving research funding from the Brain and Behavior Foundation, the NIMH, the Sackler Foundation and the Templeton Foundation; book royalties from APA Publishing, Oxford Press and Perseus Press; and royalties on the social adjustment scale from Multihealth Systems. Please see the study for all other authors’ relevant financial disclosures.
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Children with family history of two depression-affected generations had significant risk for depressive and other psychiatric disorders, according to results of the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development study published in JAMA Psychiatry.

Myrna M. Weissman

“We wanted to ensure that family history in the ABCD data was accurate, and we assessed this in a study where the parents and grandparents were directly interviewed,” Myrna M. Weissman, PhD, of the division of translational epidemiology at New York State Psychiatric Institute, told Healio Psychiatry. “We showed that grandchildren who had both a parent and grandparent with depression had themselves the highest rates of depression.”

Specifically, Weissman, lead author Milenna T. van Dijk, PhD, of the department of psychiatry at Columbia University Irving Medical Center’s Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, and colleagues evaluated the link between multigenerational family depression history and lifetime depressive disorders and other psychopathology by analyzing retrospective, cross-sectional reports on psychiatric functioning among 11,200 children (47.8% girls; mean age, 9.9 years) and parent reports on parents’ and grandparents’ histories of depression. They obtained data via the ABCD study, which utilized sampling weights for generalized estimating equation models and descriptive analyses. The researchers established four risk categories to reflect the number of prior generations with depression history, with generation one for grandparents, two for parents and three for children. The risk categories were neither generation one nor generation two; only generation one; only generation two; and both generation one and generation two. The researchers used child and caregiver reports as basis for child lifetime prevalence and relative risks for psychiatric disorders and grouped based on familial risk category derived from depression history of generation one and generation two.

Results according to parent reports showed children’s weighted prevalence of depressive disorder was 3.8% for the neither generation one nor generation two group, 5.5% for the only generation one group, 10.4% for the only generation two group and 13.3% for the generation one and generation two group. Children’s weight suicidal behavior prevalence was 5% for the neither generation one nor generation two group, 7.2% for the only generation one group. 12.1% for the only generation two group and 15% for the generation one and generation two group.

According to child reports, the weighted prevalence of depressive disorder for children was 4.8% for the neither generation one nor generation two group, 4.3% for the only generation one group, 6.3% for the only generation two group and 7% for the generation one and generation two group. Children’s weighted prevalence of suicidal behaviors was 7.4% for the neither generation one nor generation two group, 7% for the only generation one group, 9.8% for the only generation two group and 13.8% for the generation one and generation two group. The researchers noted similar patterns for other disorders among both child and parent reports and across race/ethnicity, sex and socioeconomic status.

“Getting a detailed family history of depression is important in clinical evaluation, as it can identify a young person at high risk for depression themselves,” Weissman said.