Teens more susceptible to depression

People in their teens may be more susceptible to conditions such as depression and addiction, new research has found. Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the study looked at the brains of adolescents to see if they process the same behaviours differently to adults.

Using rats, investigators from the University of Pittsburgh observed that age-related neural response variations were particularly prominent during reward anticipation.

As a result, the team suggested reward expectancy can affect the regions of the brain that are directly responsible for action selection and decision making.

Bita Moghaddam, a Professor of Neuroscience in the learning establishment's Kenneth P Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, said: "Adolescence is a time when the symptoms of most mental illnesses are first manifested, so we believe that this is a critical period for preventing these illnesses."

Chartered Psychologist Cathy Richards of the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service at The Royal Edinburgh Hospital, NHS Lothian, where she is Lead Clinician and Head of Psychology said:

“The NICE Guidelines (2005) estimate that at any one time the number of children and young people experiencing depression are 1 in 100 children and 1 in 33 young people. So in comparison to younger children, there is certainly evidence that teens are more susceptible to depression.

"Depression often lasts from seven to nine months and seriously impacts a teenager’s ability to manage ordinary tasks such as school work and relationships with friends and family.  Being unable to do these things as well as their friends can really affect their developing sense of self and contribute to a pervasive belief that they are no good. 

"There are a number of websites such as Depression in Teenagers which have been developed to signpost young people to effective self-help and how to seek help from services."