Harvard Mental Health Letter

Preventing depression in adolescents

Interventions are most effective when targeted to youths most at risk.

Each year, about 1% to 6% of children and teenagers develop major depression. This mood disorder not only interferes with school achievement and relationships, but also increases the risk of suicide (the third leading cause of death in adolescents). Early onset of depression also raises the risk of developing more severe and chronic symptoms later in life.

Several reviews have concluded that interventions to prevent or delay depression are modestly effective, at least in the short term. More recent research suggests that these programs are most effective when offered to those youths most likely to develop depression.

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