Early adversity, higher stress sensitivity

June 30, 2011 at 3:45 PM
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LOS ANGELES, June 30 (UPI) -- Sixty percent of people with a history of depression develop the disorder following relatively minor misfortunes, U.S. researchers suggest.

George Slavich, an assistant professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology and colleagues assessed individuals' experiences with early adversity, clinical depression and recent life stress.

Slavich says that people who experienced an early parental loss or separation and people who had more lifetime episodes of depression became depressed following lower levels of life stress than those who didn't have these predisposing factors.

"We have known for a long time that some people are more likely to experience mental and physical health problems than others," Slavich says in a statement. "For example, while some people get depressed following a relationship breakup, others do not."

The researchers recruited 100 individuals with depression, 26 men and 74 women, and interviewed them extensively to determine what types of adversity they were exposed to when young, how many episodes of depression they experienced and what types of life stress they encountered recently.

The study, published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research, shows people who had lost a parent or had been separated from a parent for at least one year before the age of 18 and individuals who had experienced more episodes of depression over their lifetime became depressed following significantly lower levels of recent life stress.

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