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Mental/Emotional Health

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Despite their robust physical health and general optimism, a host of issues trouble young adults with depression

Young adulthood is a paradox of robust physical health and relative optimism on the one hand, and a high risk for depression, behavioral disorders, and social vulnerability, on the other hand. Indeed, one in four young adults will suffer a depressive episode between the ages of 18 and 25, a time of identify formation and role transitions.

A depressive episode during the stage of "emerging adulthood" can get in the way of reaching developmental milestones such as getting a job or paying one's own rent. It can also cause substantial social problems, suggests a new study by University of Chicago researchers.

Interviews with 15 young adults with depression provide some insight into the troubling issues they face. Depressed mood, identity concerns, problems with relationships, and problematic transactions with the health care system prevented them from reaching developmental milestones. Many felt they had wasted time during their depression, while their peers advanced in their lives. Inability to accomplish these transitional tasks further worsened concerns about their identity as well as their depressed mood.

For many, depression interrupted development of a sense of identify. Some were embarrassed by needing medications, fearful of taking them, and felt that depression was more complicated than could be managed with drugs alone. Many were concerned about the costs of insurance, lack of effective treatments, and the stigma of mental illness. They also worried about meeting parents' expectations; inability to be understood; and social withdrawal and isolation. Some noted the importance of supportive, economically secure parents in facilitating their recovery, and some still felt optimism about their future when they got over their depression.

The study was supported in part by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (HS15699).

See "A qualitative exploration of depression in emerging adulthood: Disorder, development, and social context," by Sachiko A. Kuwabara, M.A., Benjamin W. Van Voorhees, M.D., M.P.H., Jackie K. Gollan, Ph.D., and G. Caleb Alexander, M.D., M.S., in the July/August 2007 General Hospital Psychiatry 29, pp. 317-324.

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