Depression Risk Factors

Depression can strike all ages, races, and genders. While it may be a common mental illness, there are certain risk factors that can help predict how likely a person will be to develop major depression disorder. Both doctors and families can use these factors to help prevent depression from taking hold of an individual or to help alleviate a depressed individual’s symptoms.


Women are twice as likely to develop depression then men. They are also twice as likely to attempt suicide, even though rates of death by suicide are higher in men. Beginning in puberty, hormones and societal pressures start affecting girls to such extremes that this is where many girls feel their first symptoms of depression. The hormone changes and mood shifts during menstruation continue to follow women through the months and years of pregnancy, post-pregnancy, perimenopause, and menopause.

Women who are particularly sensitive to hormone changes are more susceptible to developing postpartum depression as their hormonal activity begins to rapidly decrease. Stress from the exhaustion of nurturing an infant or grief after a miscarriage can also increase a woman’s chance of developing depression.

Rates of depression are statistically higher for women than men, but men suffer too; they just often hide it from others. Substance abuse or aggression may be the mask for some men who are fighting depression.

Familial Influences

Statistically, African-American women have the highest rates of depression. Certain races can predispose individuals to the risk of developing depression.

Adolescents of parents who have depression, especially mothers with depression, are more likely to develop depression. Both hereditary and environmental factors bombard young adults with an assault of reasons for depression to develop. Sexual abuse, neglect, academic stress, loneliness, anxiety, and peer pressures of dating, using alcohol and drugs, or other teen stressors heighten the risk of depression.


Up to five percent of America’s senior citizens suffer from depression. As the body slows down, medical issues become more frequent, and friends are increasingly lost to death and older individuals lose their energy, joy, and will to live. The death of a spouse or being uprooted from their home and sent to live in a nursing home are traumatic experiences that can plunge a person into despair.

Aging causes the loss of many physical and mental abilities—abilities that helped them enjoy everything from sports to crossword puzzles. Add to these losses, problems of Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, or other illnesses and the likelihood for depression rapidly increases.


Chronic illnesses can make a patient feel helpless, hopeless, and powerless. Researchers have found that multiple illnesses can initiate major depression disorder symptoms. Patients are at risk for depression if their disease has no cure, has symptoms that are unpredictable and uncontrollable, and is life-threatening.

Depression doesn’t often travel alone. It is often accompanied by one of many physical or mental illnesses. When treating depression, the whole person should be assessed so that healing can progress successfully.