Anyone of any race can experience depression at any time in their life but the disorder arises most commonly in the late twenties or early thirties. About twice as many women are diagnosed with depression as men, but this may reflect a difference in the willingness of women and men to seek treatment. Other risk factors for depression include:
-- Having a close relative with depression.
-- Having family members who have committed suicide.
-- Stressful life events, such as the death of a loved one.
-- Having had a depressive episode in the past.
-- Chronic illness, such as cancer, heart failure, Alzheimer's or HIV/AIDS.
-- Long-term use of certain medications including some blood pressure medicines.
-- Having certain personality traits, such as having low self-esteem.
-- Abusing alcohol, nicotine, or drugs.
-- Being in a lower socioeconomic group.
Having recently given birth puts you at risk for a different type of depression called postpartum depression or the "baby blues." This condition can be seriously debilitating and often requires treatment, but is considered distinct from major depression because it is caused by the hormonal changes that occur after childbirth. In addition, living in a temperate or arctic environment where the sun angle is low in the winter puts people at risk for seasonal affective disorder (SAD), also distinct from major depression due to its situational nature.
Continued on page 5: How do I know if I am depressed?