It's sad enough to consider the fact that very young children can suffer from depression, but a new study published in The American Journal of Psychiatry shows that there's even more reason to be concerned about the condition.
Researchers from Washington University in St. Louis found that "preschool onset depression, a developmentally adapted form of depression arising between ages 3 and 6 ... emerged as a robust predictor of major depressive disorder in later childhood."
The study followed nearly 250 kids, starting at ages 3–5 until ages 9–12, and discovered that "depressed preschoolers were 2.5 times more likely to suffer from the condition in elementary and middle school than kids who were not depressed at very young ages," according to a statement released by the University.
Study findings provide evidence that this preschool depressive syndrome is a robust risk factor for developing full criteria for major depression in later childhood, over and above other established risk factors. The results suggest that attention to preschool depression and conduct disorder in addition to maternal history of depression and exposure to trauma may be important in identifying young children at highest risk for later major depression and applying early interventions.
That's a depressing finding, to be sure, but there is some good news, according to child psychiatrist Joan L. Luby, MD, the director of the University's Early Emotional Development Program, who said in the statement: "...if we can identify depression early, perhaps we have a window of opportunity to treat it more effectively and potentially change the trajectory of the illness so that it is less likely to be chronic and recurring."
Image of a sad young girl: Shutterstock