Now, a new study led by UCLA researchers suggests that people become depressed more easily following minor life stress in part because they have experienced early life adversity or prior depressive episodes, both of which may make people more sensitive to later life stress.
George Slavich, an assistant professor at the UCLA Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology, and colleagues assessed individuals' experiences with early adversity, clinical depression and recent life stress. Slavich found that individuals who experienced an early parental loss or separation and people who had more lifetime episodes of depression became depressed following lower levels of life stress than those who didn't have these predisposing factors.
The study appears in the current online edition of the Journal of Psychiatric Research.
"We have known for a long time that some people are more likely to experience mental and physical health problems than others," Slavich said. "For example, while some people get depressed following a relationship breakup, others do not. In this study, we aimed to identify factors that are associated with this phenomenon and to examine whether increased sensitivity to stress might be playing a role."
The researchers recruited 100 individuals with depression, 26 men and 74 women, and interviewed them extensively to determine what types of adversity they were exposed to when they were young, how many episodes of depression they had experienced and what types of life stress they had encountered recently.
The results showed that people who had lost a parent or had been separated from a parent for at least one year before the age of 18 and individuals who had experienced more episodes of depression over their lifetime became depressed following significantly lower levels of recent life stress.
Additional analysis revealed that these effects were unique to stressors involving interpersonal loss.
"Researchers at UCLA and elsewhere have previously demonstrated that early adversity and depression history are associated with heightened sensitivity to stress," Slavich said. "The present study replicates this effect but suggests for the first time that these associations may be unique to stressors involving interpersonal loss. In other words, individuals who are exposed to early parental loss or separation and persons with greater lifetime histories of depression may be selectively sensitized to stressors involving interpersonal loss."
An important question raised by these findings is how adversity early in life and prior experiences with depression promote increased sensitivity to stress. One possibility, the researchers say, is that people who experience early adversity or depression develop negative beliefs about themselves or the world — beliefs that get activated in the face of subsequent life stress. Another possibility, which is not mutually exclusive, is that early adversity and depression influence biological systems that are involved in depression, perhaps by lowering the threshold at which depression-relevant processes like inflammation get triggered.
"Although many factors impact stress sensitivity," Slavich said, "thoughts almost always play a role. For example, when your best friend doesn't call back, do you think she is angry at you or do you think it just slipped her mind? Our thoughts affect how we react emotionally and biologically to situations, and these reactions in turn greatly influence our health. Regardless of your prior experiences, then, it is always important to take a step back and make sure you are interpreting situations in an unbiased way, based on the information available."
Other authors on the study were Scott M. Monroe, the William K. Warren Foundation Professor of Psychology at the University of Notre Dame, and Ian H. Gotlib, the David Starr Jordan Professor of Psychology at Stanford University.
The study was funded by a Society in Science: Branco Weiss Fellowship and by the National Institutes of Health. The authors report no conflicts of interest.
The UCLA Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology encompasses an interdisciplinary network of scientists working to advance the understanding of psychoneuroimmunology by linking basic and clinical research programs and by translating findings into clinical practice. The center is affiliated with the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior and the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.
For more news, visit the UCLA Newsroom and UCLA News|Week follow us on Twitter.
Mark Wheeler | EurekAlert!
Hot cars can hit deadly temperatures in as little as one hour
24.05.2018 | Arizona State University
3D images of cancer cells in the body: Medical physicists from Halle present new method
16.05.2018 | Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg
The more electronics steer, accelerate and brake cars, the more important it is to protect them against cyber-attacks. That is why 15 partners from industry and academia will work together over the next three years on new approaches to IT security in self-driving cars. The joint project goes by the name Security For Connected, Autonomous Cars (SecForCARs) and has funding of €7.2 million from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. Infineon is leading the project.
Vehicles already offer diverse communication interfaces and more and more automated functions, such as distance and lane-keeping assist systems. At the same...
A research team led by physicists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has developed molecular nanoswitches that can be toggled between two structurally different states using an applied voltage. They can serve as the basis for a pioneering class of devices that could replace silicon-based components with organic molecules.
The development of new electronic technologies drives the incessant reduction of functional component sizes. In the context of an international collaborative...
At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.
At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...
There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?
At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...
So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics
Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...
25.05.2018 | Event News
02.05.2018 | Event News
13.04.2018 | Event News
25.05.2018 | Event News
25.05.2018 | Machine Engineering
25.05.2018 | Life Sciences