top of page

Who Gets Depression? Here's The Top 9 Risk Factors For Getting Depression.

Are you predisposed to get depression? Here’s the definitive answer on exactly who gets depression.

Who Does Depression Affect? Anyone.

That includes:

  • Children

  • Happy people

  • Successful people

  • Alcoholics

  • Homeless people

  • Parents

  • Healthy people

  • Teenagers

  • People on the poverty line

  • Elderly people

  • Wealthy people

  • And, basically, any section of society

So, that includes people from all and every walk of life.

What are my risk factors for getting depression?

A risk factor is some influence that increases the chances of you becoming depressed.

It’s quite possible to develop depression without any of the influences listed below but if you have any of these, your chances of developing depression are higher.


1. You’ve Previously Had Depression As An Adult.

Depression is usually highly recurrent. People who’ve recovered from at least one episode of depression have a 50% chance of it re-occurring according to be American psychiatric Association[i]. If someone has had three episodes of depression, they have an 80% chance of re-occurrence.

A re-occurrence of depression will usually begin within five years of the initial episode and on average individuals with a history of major depression will have between five and nine episodes of depression in their lifetime[ii].

2. You’ve Previously Had Depression As An Child

Some research undertaken by the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience at Kings College, London[iii] studied the likelihood of adult depression occurring if you’d suffered from childhood depression. The results were startling.

Of people in the study who’d suffered a mental health problem as an adult, 73% had been diagnosed with health problems before the age of 18 and 50% had been diagnosed with mental health problems before the age of 15.

It explained that its childhood counterpart generally preceded each health issue. For example, an adult diagnosed with anxiety had been diagnosed with anxiety as a child and the adult diagnosed with depression had been diagnosed with depression as a child.

The study concludes that most adult mental health disorders should be reassessed as extensions of childhood disorders. In particular, juvenile conduct disorder (a mental disorder diagnosed in childhood or adolescence that presents itself through a repetitive and persistent pattern of behavior often referred to as anti social behavior) prevention and targeting may help reduce mental health disorders in adults.

I was never diagnosed with depression as a child but I know I suffered from it and it just stayed with me until I finally got the help I needed as an adult aged 31. Had I been diagnosed, I would have been in that category of adult where my poor mental health as an adult was simply an extension of my poor mental health in childhood.

3. One or Both of Your Parent/s Suffered From Depression

According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists, depression can run in families. A family with one parent, who is severely depressed, creates a risk factor that the children are eight times more likely to become depressed than children with no depression in the family.

Specifically it’s the material support, caregiving, negative interactions, and poor judgement on keeping children safe, using physical punishment and the lack of nurture that is associated with poor mental health for the children says one study[iv].

Certainly, in my case, I remember my mother taking anti-depressants and got upset when she couldn’t get hold of them. I’m not sure what her issues were but she definitely was not happy. She criticised me, didn’t have the capacity to nurture me and hit me when she was angry.

Was that because she was depressed? Who knows but it certainly had an impact on my mental-health. Looking back I can see because I was a very depressed child, I performed badly at school, had no friends and was very isolated.

I’ve known many parents to take out their unhappiness on their children, incorrectly believing that their children are part of the problem.

It really has been my life’s work to recover and lead a normal life.

4. You Suffer From Chronic Health Conditions

There are some risk factors for developing depression that are directly related to physical illnesses. For example, conditions such as Parkinson’s disease and stroke cause changes in the brain. In some cases, these changes may have a direct role in depression.

Which illnesses might trigger depressive episodes?

  • Alzheimer’s disease

  • Heart disease

  • Cancer

  • Epilepsy

  • Diabetes

  • Multiple sclerosis

  • HIV

  • Rheumatoid arthritis and

  • Systemic lupus erythematosus

It is common for depression to set in specifically after the diagnosis of an illness but the depression may lift as the person who is ill adjusts to treatment. But not always. It might be that the depression lingers even after the illness has healed up.

Illness-related anxiety and stress can also trigger symptoms of depression. It is common for depression to set in specifically after the diagnosis of an illness.

One study[v] suggested that if you have depression alongside another medical illness, you tend to have more dominant symptoms of both illnesses; it appears that you have more difficulty adapting to both the illness and the depression. They may have much more difficulty adapting to their illness than those who don’t also have depression.

It is not yet clear whether treatment of depression, when another illness is present, can improve mental and/or physical health. However, it is still important to seek treatment. It can make a difference in day-to-day life if you are coping with a chronic or long-term illness.

Can depression increase health risks?

It’s also been suggested that people suffering from depression may also have an increased risk of physical illness because of the way each system functions in the body.

Certainly, science has confirmed that increased stress levels can increase inflammation and increased inflammation has been linked to increase risk of depression.

Depression changes the body functions and scientists have found that this can result in:

  • Change in heart rate

  • Change in blood circulation

  • High stress hormones

  • Increased inflammation

  • Metabolic rates change which increases risk for diabetes

All of these conditions can have a negative impact on physical health.

5. You Have Another Mental Health Condition

Depression can be triggered you have another mental health issue. The scientists know this but they can’t say why.

The other mental health conditions that may trigger depression are:

  • Generalised anxiety disorder

  • Schizophrenia

  • Panic disorder

  • Substance abuse

  • Post traumatic stress disorder

  • Obsessive compulsive disorder

  • Social phobia

  • Eating disorders

Although the experts can’t say why one mental health disorder would put you at a higher risk of depression, there would certainly be some logic behind it.

If someone suffers from an anxiety related disorders, the biological mechanism for coping with these is to go into the ‘flight or fight mode’. This mode increases a stress hormone response resulting in the body being flooded with high levels of cortisol.

A small amount of cortisol is no bad thing but when we’re continually flooded with the hormone, it can result in high blood sugar and blood pressure and a decreased ability to fight inflammation. Of course, increased inflammation has been identified as a precursor for depression.

People who suffer from high anxiety have also been shown to self medicate with alcohol and recreational drugs, both of which can cause depression.

6. You’ve Had a Baby

Depression following birth is known as postpartum or post natal depression.

Again, the experts don’t exactly know why people suffer from this type of depression but it’s thought that it’s a result of the change in the levels of hormones.

Because the amount of oestrogen and progesterone change significantly after birth, this leads to a trigger in mood swings. Additionally, a lack of sleep and caring for herself, as well as the baby, may contribute to a very low mood.

7. You're Taking Prescribed Drugs

Taking prescription drugs that cause depression can be a difficulty particularly for elderly patients. The following drugs have been said to cause depression in some patients.

  • Antabuse – for acne

  • Anticonvulsants – for seizures

  • : Anticonvulsants are used to control epileptic seizures, examples include Celontin and Zarontin.

  • Barbiturates - for anxiety

  • Benzodiazepines - for anxiety and insomnia

  • Beta-adrenergic blockers – for heart problems

  • Bromocriptine - for Parkinson's disease

  • Calcium-channel blockers – for blood pressure

  • Estrogens - for female hormones

  • Fluoroquinolone – a type of antibiotic

  • Interferon alfa – for certain cancers and hepatitis

  • Norplant - for birth control.

  • Opioids – for pain relief

  • Statins – for cholesterol

  • Zovirax – for shingles

8. You're a Woman

The statistics state that more women than men have depression. However, that doesn’t take into account the men who don’t seek help.

A survey undertaken by YouGov for the Mental Health Foundation in 2016 discovered that men are much less likely to disclose their mental health problems to a friend or the family, or seek support, than women. The survey showed that 28% of men disclosed that they’d not sought help compared to 19% of women.

However, three times as many men die of suicide than women according to UK Government statistics[vi]. One of the main reasons is that men are less likely to discuss their depression according to the Samaritans[vii].

Other studies show[viii] that 72% of people who died by suicide between 2002 and 2012 had not been in contact with their doctor about their feelings in the year before their suicide.

9. You've Suffered A Recent Loss

Finally, it is common for anyone who’s suffered a loss to suffer depression

This can include:

  • Bereavement

  • Job

  • Home

  • Divorce

  • Health

  • Accident

  • Bullying

  • Domestic violence

**Please remember I am not a doctor and these are my own opinions**



  1. [ii] Kessler RC, Zhao S, Blazer DG, Swartz M. Prevalence, correlates and course of minor depression and major depression in the national comorbidity survey. Journal of Affective Disorders. 1997;45:19–30. [PubMed


[iv] Hops, H. (1995). Age- and gender-specific effects of parental depression: A commentary. Developmental Psychology,31(3),428-431.

  1. [v] Ohayon MM, Schatzberg AF. Using pain to predict depressive morbidity in the general population. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2003;60:39–47. [PubMed]


[vii] 2Wylie, C. et al. (2012). ‘Men, Suicide and Society.’ Samaritans Research Report.

[viii] 3Hewlett, E. & Horner, K. (2015). Mental Health Analysis Profiles: OECD Working Paper No. 81. Available at: [Accessed on 19/01/16].


bottom of page