Risk Factors

Each year, 14.8 million Americans suffer from depression. Although depression can affect anyone, certain factors may increase your likelihood of developing the disorder:


Women have twice the rate of depression as men. However, researchers note that may be due to more women seeking treatment for their symptoms than men. Others believe it could be due to hormonal changes throughout life. Women are particularly vulnerable to depression during pregnancy, after childbirth (postpartum depression), and during menopause.

Family History

People who have family members with a history of mood disorders have an increased risk for depression than the general population.

Lack of Social Support

Prolonged social isolation, or having few friends or supportive relationships, can increase the chances of depression.

Sleep Disorders

Chronic sleep problems, such as insomnia, are associated with depression. Although experts do not know if lack of sleep can cause depression, bouts of the mood disorder do seem to occur after weeks of poor sleep.

Death or Loss

Sadness and grief are a normal part of the coping process when you lose someone you love. Some people will get better in a matter of months, while others will develop serious depression. If symptoms last more than two months, you should be evaluated for depression.


People who were neglected or abused (physically, sexually, or verbally) as children have an increased risk for major depression and dysthymia as well as other mental disorders.

Serious Illness

Many chronic conditions have been linked to higher rates of depression. Some of those include: chronic pain, arthritis, heart disease, diabetes, overactive and underactive thyroid, stroke, cancer, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer's disease, dementia, Parkinson's disease, and Huntington's disease.

Substance Abuse

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, one-fifth of all people with depression abuse substances. Drug and alcohol abuse may lead to chemical changes in the brain that make people more susceptible to depression, or it could be that people with depression are more likely to self-medicate with mood-altering substance.

Major Life Events

Life-changing events—even happy ones—can increase a person’s risk for depression. These include having kids, changing or losing a job, buying a house, getting divorced, moving, and retiring.

Certain Medications

Some medications, including prescription blood pressure medication, sleeping pills, sedatives, steroids, and prescription painkillers have all been linked to depression. If you are taking any of these medications, talk to your doctor about your concerns. Never stop taking medication without first consulting your physician.