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Risk Factors and Causes


Dr. Patel
Depression is one of the most common mental health conditions in the United States, and it most often results from a combination of biopsychosocial factors. Dr. Mansfield, can you tell us about some common risk factors for depression?

Dr. Mansfield
Of course, Dr. Patel. Depression can happen at any age, but often begins in adulthood. For many middle-aged and older adults, depression co-occurs with another serious medical illness, such as diabetes, cancer, or heart disease. Some medications prescribed for these illnesses can cause side effects that contribute to depression.

Other physical risk factors for depression include sleeping difficulties, chronic pain, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, poor diet, and genetics. Additionally, some people with a family history of depression may be predisposed to experience depression themselves.

Cognitive factors include tendencies toward negative thoughts, judgments, predictions, or comparisons about one's self, the world, the future, and other people.

Emotions like sadness, irritability, and emptiness are typical experiences for someone who is depressed. These emotions can negatively impact cognitive and behavioral factors, which in turn intensify the negative emotions.

In a similar way, other mental disorders, such as an anxiety disorder or borderline personality disorder, can also increase the risk for depression.

Behavioral factors, such as isolation or withdrawal from others, dietary changes, increased alcohol consumption, and reduced engagement with healthy activities, increase the likelihood of experiencing depression. They also tend to amplify negative emotional experiences.

Environmental risk factors, such as interpersonal problems, major life changes, trauma, and stress, can also contribute to depression. For instance, the loss of a loved one, a difficult relationship, or a stressful situation with a coworker can be triggers for depression.