According to a review published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, maltreatment during childhood doubles the risk of developing long-lasting episodes of depression and also makes patients less likely to respond to treatment.
According to researchers, almost one in 20 individuals in the UK have this kind of depression as a result of childhood abuse.
Experts from the Institute of Psychiatry at Kings College London carried out a review of 16 studies involving more than 23,000 patients in order to see if they could identify any patterns relating to reoccurring depression.
Interestingly what the experts found was that maltreatment during childhood such as rejection from their mother, sexual abuse or harsh physical treatment more than doubled the risk of reoccurring depression.
One of the researchers on the project, Dr Rudolf Uher, said: “If these things happen early in life, it is more powerful.”, a statement which was echoed by the charity Sane who also agreed that the study had highlighted just how damaging trauma during childhood could be.
According to figures from the review, in the UK 16% of individuals will develop persistent depression by the time they reach 33, and a quarter of them (or 4% of the entire population) were maltreated as children.
Though there is no exact explanation as to why maltreated children have a higher risk of developing persistent depression, it is thought to be related to changes in the brain, immune system and hormonal glands which stay with us throughout childhood and into adulthood.
Chief executive of the mental health charity Sane, Majorie Wallace, said: “It may seem obvious that traumatic events in our lives can make us depressed, but this study highlights how particularly damaging such traumas can be when experienced during childhood, when our brains are still developing.”
However, Wallace also stressed that it was important that we should not lose hope as research such as this can point the way towards more effective treatments and preventative measures.
View the original BBC News article.