UH Professor Receives Grant to Study Teen Depression

A University of Houston psychology professor is examining what causes depression in teens. As Houston Public Radio's Laurie Johnson reports, the processor was chosen by the National Institute of Mental Health to analyze 20 years of data on teen depression.

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For the past 20 years, researchers in Oregon have tracked the lives of 1,700 adolescents who were diagnosed with depression. Thousands of facts relating to those cases were compiled and it's now the job of UH Professor Dr. Jeremy Pettit to sort through the data, looking for clues into the genesis of teen depression.

"Try to examine the course of the trajectory of depression from adolescence into adulthood. One of the basic questions we're asking is what do depressed adolescents look like when they are 25, 30, 35? Do they continue to display problems? Do things get worse or do some of those get better? And what distinguishes between those groups?"

Pettit will be looking for depression predictors -- factors in a person's life that could make them more or less likely to suffer from depression. For example, researchers already know that genetics play a part in adolescent depression, but sometimes simply growing up in a home with a depressed parent could make teens more vulnerable to developing depression themselves.

"You can imagine with the drain that goes along with depression - the loss of energy, the inability to respond and interact as well socially could hamper relationships between parents and children. Maybe those things factor into the development of depression in kids."

Pettit will spend the next three years researching these issues. The National Institute of Mental Health granted him $525,000 for the project. Laurie Johnson, Houston Public Radio News.

Bio photo of Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...