The researchers examined both boys and girls in their study. They asked the juveniles about depression symptoms, and they tested the amount of cortisol in their saliva. Cortisol is a naturally occurring hormone that is released when the body is under stress. This test has been used for decades in psychological research on anxiety.
When analyzing their data, the researchers found that boys who are mildly depressed with high levels of salivary cortisol are 14 times more likely to develop major depression than boys with mild depression and low levels of salivary cortisol. Girls were only 4 times more likely to develop major depression.
There is more research to be done, but this has the potential have huge implications for millions of teenagers. Depression is one of the most common mental disorders, and it is much easier to treat when it is still mild. By being able to screen for potential future problems, schools and doctors can help a lot of boys avert what could be a lifetime of misery. And, it may even have the effect of lowering school violence--major depression is the most common mental disease in boys who commit suicide and who engage in school shootings.
Here is a 9News video on the topic:
Click here if the video does not appear above.
Thanks for reading-- Max Wachtel, Ph.D.