Depression Biomarker Found

Researchers identify elevated levels of a stress hormone in teenage boys as a signpost of major depression.

By | February 19, 2014

WIKIMEDIA, SANDER VAN DER WELLevels of the stress hormone cortisol in the saliva of teenage boys may predict their likelihood of developing clinical depression, according to a study published last week (February 13) in PNAS. Paired with questionnaires that probe the youths for nascent symptoms of depression, the biomarkers could help individuals at risk of major depression to know to seek early treatment.

“Given that we know more teenagers are getting depressed, we should be looking actively for people who are developing problems and treating them early and effectively,” University of Cambridge neuroscientist and study coauthor Barbara Sahakian told NewScientist.

Sahakian and her colleagues measured cortisol levels in the saliva of more than 1,800 teenagers, ages 13 to 18, and recorded any preclinical depressive symptoms the subjects reported over the course of a year. Teenage males who reported high levels of depressive symptoms and who had high levels of cortisol were 14 times more likely to develop clinical depression within three years than the subjects with low cortisol levels and low levels of depressive symptoms. For girls involved in the study, cortisol levels were not better predictors of developing major depression than the reported depressive symptoms alone.

“Through our research, we now have a very real way of identifying those teenage boys most likely to develop clinical depression,” Cambridge’s Ian Goodyer said in a statement. “This will help us strategically target preventions and interventions at these individuals and hopefully help reduce their risk of serious episodes of depression and their consequences in adult life.”

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February 19, 2014

Why report a summary like this, when the only interesting information is in the other diagonals of the cross pairs?  For example, high cortisol and high depressive symptoms vs high cortisol and low depressive symptoms.   Telling us that high depressive symptoms predicts subsequent depression, with or without high cortisol, is a mute point and merely speaks to the time1-time2 reliability of the measures or the correlation between the depressive symptoms and subsequent depression, which is likley high!

Avatar of: JM_1234321


Posts: 7

February 20, 2014

The summary was more medical than philosophical.


Ie no reason to go on and figure out why girls with high cortisol levels don't develop the same way.

Avatar of: PRice


Posts: 9

May 31, 2015

The researchers stated that a physical effect as common as visible sweat was a biomarker that predicted where the teenagers were going with their lives regardless of when the condition started. In my opinion, the researchers didn’t prove their case that “elevated morning cortisol” adequately identified teenagers who needed help.

Cortisol is an effect of multiple potential causes, including stress, which itself is often an effect of multiple potential causes. One common cause of stress and its cortisol byproduct is diet, for example, when a person consumes caffeine.

By disregarding the study’s main subjects’ histories, the study could not prove causes for any present or future effects. A correlation is the best that could ever be shown by an autobiographic memory test, in my opinion. And the study’s main finding hinged on this third-order observational method of trying to figure out what’s going on in the subjects’ brains.

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