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Remission from depression much slower in adults who were abused in childhood

January 9, 2014

TORONTO, ON – Remis­sion from depres­sion is delayed in adults who have expe­ri­enced child­hood phys­i­cal abuse or parental addic­tions, a new study by Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to researchers has found. The study is pub­lished this week in the jour­nal Social Psy­chi­a­try and Psy­chi­atric Epi­demi­ol­o­gy.

Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to inves­ti­ga­tors exam­ined a range of fac­tors asso­ci­at­ed with remis­sion in a sam­ple of 1,128 depressed Cana­di­an adults, drawn from the Nation­al Pop­u­la­tion Health Sur­vey. Depressed indi­vid­u­als were fol­lowed every oth­er year until remis­sion occurred, for up to 12 years. “Our find­ings indi­cat­ed that most peo­ple bounce back. In fact, three-quar­ters of indi­vid­u­als were no longer depressed after two years,” report­ed co-author and Pro­fes­sor Emer­i­ti Tahany M. Gadal­la. How­ev­er, not every­one recov­ered at the same rate.

“Ear­ly adver­si­ties have far-reach­ing con­se­quences. The aver­age time to recov­ery from depres­sion was 9 months longer for adults who had been phys­i­cal­ly abused dur­ing their child­hood and about 5 months longer for those whose par­ents had addic­tion prob­lems” says lead author Esme Fuller-Thom­son, San­dra Rot­man Endowed Chair in the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to’s Fac­tor-Inwen­tash Fac­ul­ty of Social Work.

“Numer­ous stud­ies have shown that child­hood abuse and parental addic­tions make indi­vid­u­als more vul­ner­a­ble to depres­sion,” says co-author and MSW grad­u­ate  Mar­la Bat­tis­ton. “Our research high­lights that these fac­tors also slow the recov­ery time among those who become depressed.”

Although this study could not deter­mine why child­hood adver­si­ties are asso­ci­at­ed with poor depres­sion out­comes, the researchers spec­u­late that neg­a­tive expe­ri­ences may inter­rupt the nor­mal devel­op­ment of the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis, which affects stress reg­u­la­tion. “In many stud­ies, adult depres­sion has been char­ac­ter­ized by HPA axis hyper­ac­tiv­i­ty,” says co-author and recent PhD grad­u­ate, Sarah Bren­nen­stuhl. “This link is an impor­tant avenue for future research.”


Link to abstract online:‑0814‑8

To obtain a PDF of the study or to arrange inter­views, con­tact:

Prof. Esme Fuller-Thom­son
Pro­fes­sor & San­dra Rot­man Endowed Chair
Fac­tor-Inwen­tash Fac­ul­ty of Social Work
Depart­ment of Fam­i­ly & Com­mu­ni­ty Med­i­cine
Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to
Cell: 416–209-3231

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