Who is affected by depression in children and teens?

Depression in children and teens is a growing problem that often goes unrecognized and untreated. Depression affects young people from all races, cultures, and socioeconomic backgrounds. Before puberty, depression occurs equally in boys and girls. But between the ages of 15 and 18, girls are twice as likely to experience depression as boys.1 Depression lasts an average of 8 months in children and adolescents. Even with treatment, at least half of those children and adolescents with depression suffer another depression episode.2

Some children and adolescents are at higher risk for developing depression, such as those who:

  • Have a family history of depression.
  • Are preadolescent boys (younger than 13).
  • Are girls in the early stages of puberty.
  • Have another health or mental disorder, such as an anxiety disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
  • Have substance abuse problems (such as with alcohol, drugs, or nicotine).
  • Complain of physical symptoms without any physical problems (such as somatization disorder).
  • Have been physically or sexually abused.
  • Have had a previous episode of depression.
  • Have experienced a recent trauma, such as a death in the family or problems with peers.
  • Live in a home environment that has family conflict.
  • Have a serious or long-term illness, such as diabetes or cancer.
  • Are uncertain of their sexual orientation.


  1. Brent DA, Birmaher B (2002). Adolescent depression. New England Journal of Medicine, 347(9): 667–671.
  2. American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (2007). Practice parameters for the assessment and treatment of children and adolescents with depressive disorders. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 46(11): 1503-1526.

Last Updated: April 16, 2009

Author: Jeannette Curtis

Medical Review: Michael J. Sexton, MD - Pediatrics & Lisa S. Weinstock, MD - Psychiatry

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