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Generational History of Depression May Up Risk for Grandchildren

Generational History of Depression May Up Risk for Grandchildren

New research discovers a multi-generational family history of major depressive disorder appears to increase the risk that grandchildren will develop depression.

Investigators found that having both parents and grandparents with major depressive disorder (MDD) was associated with higher risk of MDD for grandchildren. This knowledge may help to identify those who may benefit from early intervention, say the researchers.

The study appears online in JAMA Psychiatry.

It is well-established that having depressed parents increases children’s risk of psychiatric disorders. But there are no published studies of depression examining three generations with grandchildren in the age of risk for depression and with direct interviews of all family members.

Myrna M. Weissman, Ph.D., of Columbia University and New York State Psychiatric Institute, New York, studied 251 grandchildren (average age 18), their parents and grandparents. Grandchildren were interviewed an average of two times and their biological parents were interviewed an average of nearly five times. Grandparents were also interviewed.

When first comparing two generations, the study suggests grandchildren with depressed parents had twice the risk of MDD compared with nondepressed parents, as well as increased risk for disruptive disorder, substance dependence, suicidal ideation or gesture, and poorer functioning.

Comparing three generations, the authors reported grandchildren with both a depressed parent and depressed grandparent had three times the risk of MDD.

Children without a depressed grandparent but with a depressed parent had overall worse functioning than children without a depressed parent.

Limitations of the study include its small sample size and a potential lack of generalizability because of its makeup.

“In this study, biological offspring with two previous generations affected with major depression were at highest risk for major depression, suggesting the potential value of determining family history of depression in children and adolescents beyond two generations. Early intervention in offspring of two generations affected with moderate to severely impairing MDD seems warranted,” the study concluded.

Source: JAMA/EurekAlert

Generational History of Depression May Up Risk for Grandchildren

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Generational History of Depression May Up Risk for Grandchildren. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 31, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 11 Aug 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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