JAMA logo Depression is seemingly a state of low mood and aversion to activity and depressed people may feel sad or restless. According to a report posted online, more than one-third of mothers and about one-fifth of fathers in the United Kingdom seem to experience depression between their child’s birth and 12th year of age, with the highest rates in the first year after birth.

Experts precisely evaluated occurrence, trends and correlates of parental depression among 86,957 families in U.K. primary care facilities between 1993 and 2007. Scientists analyzed mothers and fathers with depression with the help of diagnostic codes and pharmacy records.

“Depression in parents is associated with adverse behavioral, developmental and cognitive outcomes in their children,” the authors elucidated. “While the maternal depression and child outcome literature is well established, there are fewer studies on paternal depression. There is evidence that paternal depression is not uncommon, with rates higher than those in the general adult male population; however, a wide range of prevalence rates for paternal depression have been reported.”

Investigators associated with the analysis revealed that between their children’s birth and age 12, 19,286 mothers had a total of 25,176 episodes of depression, while 8,012 fathers had a total of 9,683 episodes of depression. They observed that depression rate was 7.53 per 100 mothers per year and 2.69 per 100 fathers per year. Further, the highest rates were identified in the first year after the birth of a child, with 13.93 per 100 mothers and 3.56 per 100 fathers experiencing depression in that specific period.

“These high rates of depression in the postpartum period are not surprising owing to the potential stress associated with the birth of a baby, e.g., poor parental sleep, the demands made on parents and the change in their responsibilities, and the pressure this could place on the couple’s relationship,” the authors quoted. “The high rate of parental depression in the first year after delivery may also be partly due to a resumption of antidepressant use following a break during pregnancy and breastfeeding.”

Chances of developing depression were observed to be among parents who had a history of depression. They were apparently younger when their child was born and were more socially deprived. Authors describe the younger group as 15 to 24 years as compared to the senior group who were 25 years and older.

“There is a well-established link between depression and social and economic deprivation both in the general population and among parents. This finding may reflect the stresses of poverty, unemployment, low employment grade and lower social support among people of lower socioeconomic status,” the authors remarked. In addition, “younger parents may be less prepared for parenthood with more unplanned pregnancies and may be less able to deal with the stresses of parenthood compared with older parents.”

Scientists share that these findings may highlight that there is a requirement for precise detection of depression among mothers and fathers. They further alert clinicians by saying that they should be aware of the risk factors for depression among parents and assess individuals who exhibit those characteristics. They reveal that future research may underline other factors linked with parental depression, like the couple’s relationship quality and stressful life events, and the distinct and cumulative effects of maternal and paternal depression on children’s health and development.

These findings will appear in the November print issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.