Preschool depression may persist in childhood

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Washington, Aug 4 (ANI): Depression among preschoolers is not a transient developmental stage, but may even continue into childhood, according to a report.

Researchers have said that depression among preschoolers is rather a continuous, chronic condition.

"The validity of major depressive disorder in childhood has been well established, with the disorder now widely recognized and treated in mental health settings," wrote the authors.

The researchers are sceptical if preschool depression is clinically meaningful or increases the later risk of psychiatric conditions.

Dr. Joan L. Luby, and colleagues at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis studied 306 preschoolers age 3 to 6.

Out of these, 75 met criteria for major depressive disorder, 79 had anxiety or disruptive disorders but not depression and 146 did not meet criteria for any psychiatric disorder.

A comprehensive three- to four-hour laboratory assessment was completed at the beginning of the study.

While children completed measures of emotional, cognitive and social development, primary caregivers were interviewed separately about the preschoolers' psychiatric symptoms and developmental skills.

Similar developmental and behavioural assessments were conducted 12 and 24 months later.

"Preschoolers with depression at baseline had the highest likelihood of subsequent depression 12 and/or 24 months later compared with preschoolers with no baseline disorder and with those who had other psychiatric disorders," wrote the authors.

After controlling for other demographic variables and risk factors, preschoolers with depression at the beginning of the study had a four times greater likelihood of having depression one and two years later than preschoolers without depression.

The condition also showed a chronic and recurrent course among preschoolers.

In a subset of 119 preschoolers with depression or depressive symptoms who were screened by phone at six and 18 months, 57 percent of those with depression had an episode during at least two follow-up points during study and 18 percent followed a chronic course, defined as having an episode in at least four waves of the study.

"These results underscore the clinical and public health importance of identification of depression as early as preschool," concluded the authors.

The study has been published in the latest issue of Archives of General Psychiatry, one of the JAMA/Archives journals. (ANI)

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