Risk Factors for Depression
by Michael Jubinville, MPH
A risk factor makes the chances of having a health problem higher. You can have depression with or without any of those listed below. But the more risks you have, the higher the chances of having depression. Talk to your doctor to get help lowering your risk.
Mental Illness in Your Family
If you have people in your family with mental health problems, your risk is higher for depression. This is also true if you have a spouse or partner with it.
Long term Health Problems
Changes in your body can also be linked to changes in your mental state. Long term problems from a stroke, heart attack, cancer, or HIV can lead to depression. This can also happen after a head injury. If you've had bouts of depression in the past, it can make the chances of having them again much higher.
Major Life Changes
Stressful changes in your life can lead to bouts of depression. These changes can be from problems in your marriage or job, with money, or injury or combat. Problems from your past can also lead to depression. This can happen because of any type of abuse, violence at home, bullying, or a parent in the military who left home.
Little or No Social Support
Not having a support system in place can make the chances of depression higher. Feelings of isolation or a lack of social contacts have been found in those who have depression.
Certain mental health factors put people at risk for depression. It’s mainly found in those with low self-esteem, a poor outlook, or who feel overwhelmed by stress.
Depression is also more common in people with anxiety or other mental health problems.
Teens who have tried to self-harm by the age of 16 have a higher risk of having depression by the time they're young adults. For those who wanted to take their own life, the risk is even higher.
Women have depression about twice as often as men. Changes in hormone levels may be part of the reason. This can happen with your monthly periods, pregnancy, miscarriage, after having a baby, or menopause.
Women also have stress at work and home. This is added to being the main caretakers for children and older parents.
Stress related to money, job changes, and housing can raise the risk of depression. If these happen regularly, it means stress can be constant. Over time, this can take a toll on your mental health.
Depression can happen at any age, but the risk is higher for older adults. Many times, it's not found or it's not treated the right way. It can be ignored as a common sign of aging, but this isn't the case.
Race and Ethnicity
Depression is more common in White people. But when it does happen in Black people, it's often more severe and long-lasting. Blacks are less likely to have depression treated.
Long-term sleep problems are linked to higher rates of depression. If you have problems getting sleep on a regular basis, call your doctor for help.
Certain medicines are linked to depression:
Depression. National Institute of Mental Health website. Available at: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/depression/index.shtml. Updated February 2018. Accessed October 8, 2018.
Depression (mild to moderate). EBSCO Natural and Alternative Treatments website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated September 2, 2016. Accessed October 8, 2018.
Depression in children and adolescents. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.... Updated July 23, 2018. Accessed October 8, 2018.
Depression in elderly patients. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.... Updated May 26, 2017. Accessed October 8, 2018.
Depressive disorders. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/psychiatric-disorders/mood-disorders/depressive-disorders. Updated May 2018. Accessed October 8, 2018.
Ellison CG, Flannelly KJ. Religious involvement and risk of major depression in a prospective nationwide study of African American adults. J Nerv Ment Dis. 2009;197(8):568-573.
Major depressive disorder (MDD). EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.... Updated August 23, 2018. Accessed October 8, 2018.
Williams DR, Gonzalez HM, Neighbors H, et al. Prevalence and distribution of major depressive disorder in African Americans, Caribbean Blacks, and Non-Hispanic Whites. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2007;64(3):305-315.
11/6/2014 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed...: Mars B, Heron J, Crane, C, et al. Clinical and social outcomes of adolescent self harm: population based birth cohort study. 2014;349:g5954.
1/4/2016 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance https://www.dyname...: Creech SK, Hadley W, Borsari B. The impact of military deployment and reintegration on children and parenting: a systematic review. Prof Psychol Res Pr. 2014;45(6):452-464.
Last reviewed September 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Adrian Preda, MD
Last Updated: 10/8/2018
EBSCO Information Services is fully accredited by URAC. URAC is an independent, nonprofit health care accrediting organization dedicated to promoting health care quality through accreditation, certification and commendation.
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
To send comments or feedback to our Editorial Team regarding the content please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our Health Library Support team will respond to your email request within 2 business days.