Charlotte Todd – Swansea University
Depression in young people can lead to poor health and social outcomes. As a result, the World Health Organisation has highlighted the need to identify what puts people at the greatest risk of developing depression – so that services can be designed in response.
Having a parent with depression is known to be a major risk factor in the development of depression in a young person. However, how much of that risk comes from the child living with a parent who is depressed? And is there still a risk for children whose mum or dad had a previous history of depression before they were born? Is this risk different depending on whether your mum or dad had depression? A team of researchers from Swansea University explored these questions in more detail.
Our research involves studying data from 500,000 children, over 250,000 mums and 100,000 dads.
Early results show that risks of developing depression and failing school exams are highest in children of parents who had depression both before and after the birth of their child, showing the length of time the parent had depression to be important. Whilst the risk is slightly more in mums, living with a depressed dad also made children much more likely to go on to develop depression and fail school exams.
The team believe that early intervention is key to improving child outcomes. Some of our key recommendations include:
- Investing in early family intervention, where depression is present in either parent may contribute largely to the prevention agenda, improving an array of child outcomes.
- Traditionally, health visiting and other interventions in this field have placed a large focus on depression screening and intervention in mums. Greater awareness of depression in dads is required.
- A more holistic approach to addressing mental health among families is needed.
Helping parents with depression could have lasting benefits for the child. Importantly, these results can be used now to inform interventions and services to help prevent and ultimately improve outcomes for both families and children.