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Study links childhood abuse and neglect with risk of recurrent, persistent depression

August 19, 2011

By Patricia Nicholson

New research underscores the unfavourable outcomes linked with childhood abuse and neglect. Researchers at King’s College London found that mistreatment in childhood was associated with greater risk of recurrent depression, prolonged depression and poor response to treatment.

Researchers used data from 26 earlier studies, involving more than 26,000 people, to look at outcomes in people with depression. They found that those who had a history of childhood mistreatment or abuse were more than twice as likely to have recurrent or persistent depression compared to depressed people with no history of childhood mistreatment.

Childhood mistreatment includes physical and sexual abuse as well as neglect, psychological abuse and exposure to violence.

The analysis also found that people who had been mistreated as children were 43 per cent more likely to respond poorly to treatment with antidepressants, psychotherapy or a combination of the two.

The results suggest that depressed people who experienced abuse or neglect as children may get fewer benefits from treatment than other depressed patients. This may increase their risk for persistent or recurrent depression. Childhood abuse and neglect may also be a risk factor for prolonged or recurrent depression.

The study was published in the American Journal of Psychiatry on Aug. 13, 2011.


For more information on trauma and its effects, please visit the Trauma section of our Online Mental Health Centre.

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  • A publication of:
  • Women's College Hospital