Study Finds Early Adversity, Prior Depression Sensitize People to Stress

A recent study has found that individuals who have lost a parent or have been separated from a parent for at least one year before the age of 18 and individuals who have prior episodes of depression are especially sensitive to the depressogenic effects of stress.

To examine the issue, Dr. George Slavich, along with collaborators Drs. Scott Monroe (University of Notre Dame) and Ian Gotlib (Stanford University), recruited 100 individuals with depression, and interviewed them extensively to determine what types of adversity they were exposed to when they were young, how many episodes of depression they had experienced and what types of life stress they had encountered recently. Consistent with prior research, results revealed that individuals with a history of parental loss or separation, and persons with more lifetime episodes of depression, became depressed more easily (i.e., following lower levels of stress) than their less vulnerable counterparts.

Additional analyses revealed for the first time that these effects may be unique to interpersonal loss.

The study appeared in a recent edition of the Journal of Psychiatric Research.

The study was funded by a Society in Science: Branco Weiss Fellowship and by the National Institutes of Health.

Early Parental Loss and Depression History: Associations with Recent Life Stress in Major Depressive Disorder

UCLA News Release

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