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risk factors for anxiety and depression in adolescents

10% of children (5-16) in Great Britain have a mental disorder of some kind including conduct disorder, emotional disorder or hyperactivity, and adolescence is a critical period for the development of depression.

Researchers are only beginning to understand what causes mental health problems, and it is thought that both genetic and environmental factors have a role. In a new piece of research to be published in PLoS ONE, scientists at the University of Cambridge have discovered an interaction between a key gene and early childhood adversity and find this leads to emotional processing deficits that are later associated with diagnoses of anxiety and depression. Although this is a preliminary piece of work, the findings could lead to the development of an inexpensive tool to screen children and adolescents for common emotional mental health diseases.

Authors came to the Science Media Centre to answer questions including:

  • What does this new piece of research tell us about the way depression and anxiety disorders develop?
  • Why are problems processing emotions during adolescence thought to be a risk factor for anxiety and depression?
  • What do we know about how genetic and environmental factors cause mental health problems?
  • How could this research lead to a tool to screen adolescents for mental health problems?
  • Should we be screening adolescents for mental health problems?



Prof Barbara Sahakian, Professor of Clinical Neuropsychology, University of Cambridge

Prof Ian Goodyer, Professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, University of Cambridge

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