Poverty ups the chance of childhood depression: Study

Poverty ups the chance of childhood depression: Study

Poverty has often been found to be associated with various health conditions, be it physical or mental.  Now, a new study published in The American Journal of Psychiatry has found a relation between poverty and childhood depression.

A group of researchers from the Washington University St. Louis has found that brain connectivity in children from poor families is different compared to those from rich background. The change was observed in the hippocampus and amygdala, which control the cognitive and emotional functioning in the brain respectively. According to the researchers, the brain connectivity here was weaker in poor children than those from rich families and the intensity of weakness depended on the degree of poverty.

Co-investigator Joan Luby of Washington University’s Early Emotional Development Program said, “Previously, we’ve seen that there may be ways to overcome some brain changes linked to poverty, but we didn’t see anything that reversed the negative changes in connectivity present in poor kids.”

After analyzing brain scans of 105 children aged seven to 12, the researchers found that those who were poor as preschoolers had higher chance of getting depressed at age nine or 10.

Childhood depression

According to a report on medicinenet.com, childhood depression or pediatric depression increases the chances of developing various mental and health disorders, and depression is the primary cause of disability in the United States in people aged five or older.

The effect of pediatric depression goes beyond disorders. It ups the chance of suicide in children. Suicide is the third leading cause of death in the youth in the age group of 15 to 24, and the sixth leading cause of death in children aged five to 14, says a psychologytoday.com report.

The report also claims that pediatric depression is a major concern today and the trend is higher than ever before. In the U.S., up to 1 percent babies, 4 percent preschool-aged kids, 5 percent school going children, and 11 percent adolescents suffer from major depression, the report says.

Symptoms of pediatric depression

To prevent the children from becoming a prey to depression and reaching a point of no return, it is important to take action by recognizing the symptoms. Some of the symptoms of pediatric depression are:

  • Irritability or anger.
  • Continuous feelings of sadness and hopelessness.
  • Social withdrawal.
  • Increased sensitivity to rejection.
  • Changes in appetite – either increased or decreased.
  • Changes in sleep – sleeplessness or excessive.
  • Vocal outbursts or crying.

Vicious circle of poverty

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 46.7 million people lived in poverty in 2014. Of this, 21.1 percent American children lived in poverty in 2014. No wonder, in the run up to the presidential election, the potential candidates are not forgetting to talk about anti-poverty measures they plan to take up.

Over 16 million children, or roughly one in five, were living in poverty in 2011, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. And life does change like a fairy tale for these kids even when they grow. According to a 2009 study – titled “Child Poverty and Intergenerational Mobility” – by Columbia University, the longer a child lives in poverty, the more difficult it can be for him to progress later in life and this is asserted from the fact that 45 percent of people who spent at least half of their childhood in poverty were poor at the age of 35.

The gulf between the haves and have-nots is only widening by the day. According to telegraph.co.uk, an Oxfam study has revealed that the richest 1 percent on the planet is now worth more than the rest of everyone else put together.

Managing mental problem

The lead author, Deanna M. Barch of Washington University St. Louis, says the results of the study do not necessarily mean that a poor child is bound to have a difficult life. “Many things can be done to foster brain development and positive emotional development,” she adds.

Depression in children is often ignored. Treatment should not be delayed, medication should start as early as possible. Certain antidepressants, called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), can be effective on children and adolescents. Guidance from experts helps in overcoming the tough time. Call the Depression Treatment Helpline at 866-619-7729 today for the required support.