Skip to main content

Seminar paper examines the rise of depression in young people

12 August 2022

A young woman wearing headphones sits on a bed writing in a notepad

Researchers from the Wolfson Centre for Young People’s Mental Health have collaborated with international partners to produce an in-depth analysis of major depressive disorder in adolescents.

The seminar paper was undertaken by Professor Anita Thapar and Dr Olga Eyre from the Wolfson Centre, alongside Professor Vikram Patel (Harvard Medical School) and Professor David Brent (University of Pittsburgh) who sit on the research centre’s international scientific advisory board.

Depression describes a variety of mood-related concepts and a spectrum of difficulties ranging from normal mood fluctuations and mild problems to severe disorder.

Depression rates in young people have risen sharply in the past decade, especially in females, which is of concern because adolescence is a period of rapid social, emotional, and cognitive development and key life transitions.

Professor Thapar said: “It has been over a decade since the last Lancet Seminar on depression in adolescents, and during this time its prevalence has sharply increased, especially in females during late adolescence and early adult life. However depression describes a variety of mood-related concepts and a spectrum of difficulties ranging from normal mood fluctuations, mild problems to severe disorder.

“Prevention and early intervention for depression in young people are priorities. Our work on this seminar paper found that interventions appear most effective when targeted at the highest risk groups. However, how these interventions are best delivered requires more research and innovation. Emerging school-based and community-based social interventions also show some promise.”

Dr Olga Eyre, a clinical research fellow working in the Wolfson Centre’s interventions for adolescents at high familial risk workstream, said: “Young people who have a family history of depression, exposure to social stressors, such as bullying, or stressful life events, and belong to certain subgroups are at especially high risk of depression. 

“Our work at the Wolfson Centre includes undertaking an intergenerational study that involves a trial of an online psychological intervention for the prevention of depression in young people who have a parent with a history of depression. Details on how to take part in this important work will be released soon.”

Depression is highly diverse, more so in young people, so one size does not fit all when it comes to prevention and intervention.
Professor Anita Thapar Professor, Division of Psychological Medicine and Clinical Neurosciences

Professor Thapar concluded: "The reasons why the prevalence of depression in young people has risen and what needs to be done to reduce depression at a population level is unknown and it is a priority for the next generation of research, including here at the Wolfson Centre.

“It was wonderful to collaborate again with our international colleagues, Professor Vikram Patel and Dr David Brent, on this important work. The seminar is another example of the strong global links we have with experts across the field of youth mental health and we look forward to continuing to strengthen these partnerships when our Scientific Advisory Board meets later this year.”

The seminar paper ‘Depression in young people’ is published in The Lancet and available to view online.

Share this story