The behaviour of someone suffering from depression may vary depending on
factors such as age, gender, experiences and cultural background. While anyone
is at risk, there are certain factors that can increase a person’s likelihood
of developing depression.
Having an immediate family member who suffers from depression increases the
risk of developing depression. There is a belief that depression may be
genetic, however, the exact manner in which depression is passed through genes
is not yet fully proven or understood.
Early childhood experience
Traumatic experiences during childhood have been linked to an increased risk of
depression. Such experiences include the following:
- Death of a parent
- Physical, sexual or emotional abuse
- Exposure to violence
Ongoing stress is a common cause of depression in adults. Divorce,
unemployment, financial strain, illness and strained relationships can all
cause prolonged stress that increases one’s chance of developing depression.
Victims of physical, sexual or emotional abuse are substantially more likely to
suffer from depression. Depression may only manifest many years after the abuse
Being diagnosed with a serious illness, particularly a terminal disease such as
cancer may trigger depression.
Depression and alcoholism often go hand in hand. Alcohol is a depressant and
can either trigger or worsen depression.
Major life events
Significant events such as moving house, a career change, graduation,
divorce, death of a loved one and exposure to an extremely violent or traumatic
event can increase the risk of developing depression.
If you believe that you may be suffering from depression, it is important to
seek appropriate medical advice. If you haven’t been to a psychologist before,
ask your GP for a referral.
Causes of depression
Symptoms of depression
Reviewed by Zane Wilson, South African
Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG), March 2015.
(Previously reviewed by Dr Stefanie van
Vuuren, Psychiatrist, MB ChB (Stell), M Med (Psig) (Stell), FC (Psych) SA, May