Surprising and Common Risk Factors for Depression

The feeling of isolation is common for those suffering from depression. However, according to the World Health Organization, depression sufferers are not alone. There are more than 20 million people in the US working through the common experiences of depression. Perhaps less surprising, those 20 million people have many things in common—risk factors.

Depression is complex, far reaching, and much more than merely being sad. It is something that can strike anyone at any time and is completely separate from a person’s emotional strength or intelligence.  Although the exact causes are unknown, many risk factors have been identified, some of which may surprise you.


Women are twice as likely as men to be diagnosed and treated for depression. It is thought that 20% of women and 10% of men will experience a major depression sometime in their life. However, those findings are somewhat misleading. Studies can only calculate those who have sought treatment, which women are far more likely to do than men.

Family History

Having an immediate family member who has suffered from depression is one indication of an increased risk. Some studies show a family history of drug and alcohol abuse also increases the possibilities one may develop depression.

Work and Financial Pressures

The demands of high pressure jobs, trouble at home home, or unemployment can all be stressors that trigger a depression. People who have been unemployed for longer than six months are three times more likely to develop depression than others.

Traumatic Events

Those who have endured abuse or neglect have an increased risk for depression. Loss of significant relationships can also play a role.

Alcohol, Drugs and Nicotine

The use of alcohol, drugs and cigarettes can both be a risk factor in the development of depression as well as impede the effectiveness of treatment.


Any prolonged illness can be difficult to endure and become a risk factor in depression. Many illnesses are also naturally associated with depression such as thyroid disorders, heart disease, hormonal imbalances and many others.


According to the Mayo Clinic and many others, many medications can also cause depression. Medications commonly associated are sleeping pills, those used to control blood pressure, and birth control pills.

Residence and Economic Status

Those in urban areas are twice as likely to experience depression than those living in more rural settings. Financial pressures can also play a role in creating stress as well as inhibiting the access to treatment.

Marital Status

Depression is least common among those who are married or single. It is significantly higher among the divorced, separated or co-habitating people.

Culture and Ethnicity

No person or group of people is immune to depression though it may play a role in how or if they seek help.


Depression can arise at any age but most commonly in the late 20s. Some studies suggest that the age is decreasing with each generation. Elderly persons are also at increased risk, partly due to decreased activity, and increased isolation and illness.

Personality Traits

Some studies show that certain personality types are more prone to depression than others, such as those who are self-critical or pessimistic.

Post Natal Mothers

Often, the experience of having recently given birth can create hormonal havoc within the body and cause a severe postpartum depression.

The World Health Organization calls depression the fourth most devastating illness in the world, with that ranking  on the rise. With so many people suffering from this disease, it makes good sense to know the most common risk factors for depression. Understanding some of the common risk factors can help individuals minimize their own risk as well as identify potential problems that may need treatment.

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