Depression Triggers at Different Ages

Depression affects people at all points in their lives. From young children to older adults, this debilitating mental disorder doesn’t discriminate based on age.

Children as young as three can be diagnosed with depression. Symptoms of depression often surface during the teen to early-20 years. In mid-life, the birth of a baby, job loss or other major life events such as illness, violence or a failing relationship, can trigger depression. Older adults are at an increased risk for depression because they’re more likely to be dealing with a chronic illness and more likely to need assisted-living services.

Depression isn’t always tied to a specific life event or cause, but there are certain times in life people are at higher risk than others, often associated to change-related stress.

For children
For young children, changes to routine can be stressful, such as the start of a new school year. Parents should also look for signs of depression if their child experiences:

  • Trauma and stress due to bullying
  • Childhood trauma
  • Having a parent with anxiety or depression, which also increases the risk for kids

For teens
The teenage years can be tough and it’s often hard for parents to know the difference between normal teenage angst and serious depression. Some risk factors to watch for include:

  • Negative self-esteem due to bullying, poor academic performance or a learning disability
  • Being a witness to or victim of violence
  • Having other medical issues or a physical disability
  • Engaging in alcohol or drug use
  • Being part of the LGBTQ+ community

For young adults
For people entering their late teens and early 20s, change is often the one constant. New living quarters, new career paths and new relationships often define the turbulent 20s. When it comes to depression, these are factors to watch for during this time period:

  • Major life stress from a high-pressure job or self-imposed pressure to succeed
  • Moving away from home and away from social supports
  • Financial problems resulting from low-wage work
  • Difficult relationships

For mid-life adults
This phase of life can sometimes feel like you’re on auto-pilot. You’ve likely landed in a career field, you might be partnered off with a significant other and kids could also play a role in your life. Here are some depression risk factors to be aware of:

  • Having a child can trigger post-partum depression for women and men
  • Losing a parent or playing a caregiving role for an ailing parent
  • Going through a divorce
  • Losing a job
  • Family stress
  • Sexual health/hormonal issues

For older adults

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “depression is not a normal part of growing older.” Sometimes older adults don’t seek treatment, but their symptoms are just as treatable as younger people. Here are factors that could increase the risk for depression in seniors.

  • Requiring home health care
  • Having a chronic health condition
  • Dealing with limited mobility
  • The loss of a spouse and/or close friends

While these triggers could lead to depression at different ages, they won’t affect everyone in the same way. Still, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, “6.9 percent of adults in the U.S. – 16 million – had at least one major depressive episode in the past year.”

Knowing the risk factors that could trigger depression will help you take stock of your own mental health and those you care about. If you need help, talk to your primary care physician or a mental health professional or for a more urgent need, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Read more about mental health here:

Photo credit: Alexander Mueller

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