A number of factors can increase the risk for depression, a serious mental illness that can affect anyone, at any time of life. Risks include gender, a person's ability to cope with stress, the presence of certain medical conditions or loss of a loved one. Evidence suggests that genetics play a role in depression. While there is not a specific gene that causes depression, a family history of depression suggests that other family members may be at risk for experiencing depression during their lifetime. Gender is a risk factor as well. Women are twice as likely to suffer from depression than men, which many experts attribute - in part - to hormonal influences on the brain chemistry that regulates mood and emotions, as well as balancing work and family responsibilities. Depression is not uncommon in men, especially in a culture where male self-worth is often dependent upon physical prowess and career achievements. However, men tend to be less comfortable talking about their feelings or seeking help than women, suggesting that male depression may be underreported. Adolescents are also at risk for depression, particularly those who lack self-confidence, tend to be overly critical of themselves, or those who are unable to cope well with stress in everyday life. While risk factors may increase the probability of depression, there's no certainty that depression will occur. That's because depression risks are also closely associated with individual personalities, temperament and styles of coping, along with how each person construes and reacts to past and current life experiences. For example, a family history of physical, emotional or sexual abuse puts a person at risk for depression later in life. Depression risks may also occur in the context of relationships, as with the loss of a family member, infidelity, divorce, or betrayal by a friend or coworker. Serious illness, especially chronic conditions such as heart disease, Alzheimer's or Parkinson's, pose a risk for depression as well. In addition, depression among caregivers of family members with these chronic conditions is approximately 10 times more frequent than in the general population. Not everyone with risk factors becomes depressed. And many risk factors can be managed with the help of a mental health professional. If you - or someone you know - is at risk for depression, please consult a mental health professional.
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Last Updated:December 20, 2012