Health Team

Study: Therapy may prevent depression in at-risk teens

Posted June 2, 2009 5:40 p.m. EDT
Updated June 2, 2009 7:23 p.m. EDT

 Ashley Bowman, a Forsyth county resident is looking for a new kidney after numerous life setbacks. Bowman is on the transplant list and in full-time dialysis. Despite what she's facing, she was determined to fulfill her dream.

When teens become depressed, it can have a ripple effect in their lives, according to psychologist Judy Garber, of Vanderbilt University.

“It can affect their school, their relationships with friends (and cause a) risk for suicide and increased problems with drugs and alcohol,” Garber said.

It also greatly increases the risk of chronic depression as an adult.

Garber and other researchers looked at 316 at-risk adolescents, ages 13 to 17, around the country. All participants had at least one parent or caretaker who had experienced depression.

Half of them received the usual care, while the other half met for weekly, then monthly group therapy to help them avoid another depressive episode.

“So we get them to kind of look realistically at what the consequences of the events, consequences of their own actions and then what they can do about it,” Garber said.

Published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the study found that with more than nine months of follow-up, those in the prevention program had an 11 percent lower incidence of depression than those who weren't in the program.

In the therapy group, teens with a depressed parent were much more likely to be diagnosed with depression than other at-risk teens.

Researchers believe the prevention program can affect many lives.

“It may increase many kids' ability to do work at school, their social relationships and may have some cost benefit effects down the line,” Garber said.

Study authors say that one future area of research should explore the association between parental depression and adolescent symptoms and look at the value of therapy for both.