Health & Wellness Articles

What Causes Depression?

Recognize Your Risk Factors

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Although a challenging life event, such as the death of a loved one or financial hardship, can trigger depressive episodes, the causes of depression are complex and overlapping. There are two main categories of risks that can contribute to depression—those that you can't change, and those that you can.

Uncontrollable Risk Factors
These variables are out of your control. Although you can't do anything to change them, it's important to know whether you fall into any of these higher-risk categories.
  • Your family history. Depression appears to have a genetic component. You are more likely to experience depression if one of your parents also suffered from depression. If both parents had depression, your risk of developing it is twice as high.
  • Your gender. Women are twice as likely to experience depression as men. Experts believe this is due to fluctuating hormone levels that women experience throughout life.
  • Your age. While you may think that the risk of developing depression increases with age, that's not the always the case. In fact, studies show that the elderly are more likely to be happy and content with their lives than their younger counterparts. Depression can occur at any age (even in children), but it is most common in people between the ages of 24 and 44.
  • Your health history. Chronic health conditions such as disability, heart disease, hypothyroidism, stroke, cancer, diabetes, multiple sclerosis (MS), and Parkinson’s disease can lead to depression. A history of depression also increases your risk for future episodes.
  • Psychosocial factors. Depression is more common in people who have a history of trauma, abuse (sexual, physical or emotional), neglect, alcoholism, drug addiction, and insufficient family structure.
  • Environmental factors. Chronic depression occurs more often in people who live in areas afflicted with war, natural disasters, and poverty. Seasonal depression is most common in high latitudes with extreme seasonal changes.
  • Life changes. The loss of a loved one, conflicts with others, losing or starting a new job, the end of a relationship, retirement, moving to a new city and more—many life events can trigger depressive episodes.
While you can’t change things like family history or your environment, you can control certain factors related to your lifestyle—the choices you make each day about what to eat and how to care for yourself. These are areas of your life where you can take proactive steps to help prevent and treat depression and enhance your overall health.
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About The Author

Nicole Nichols Nicole Nichols
A certified personal trainer and fitness instructor with a bachelor's degree in health education, Nicole loves living a healthy and fit lifestyle and helping others do the same. Nicole was formerly SparkPeople's fitness expert and editor-in-chief, known on the site as "Coach Nicole." Make sure to explore more of her articles and blog posts.

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