Identifying predictors for future onset of depression is crucial to effectively developing preventive interventions. We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis to identify risk factors for first-onset depression among adolescents and young people.
We searched MEDLINE (Ovid), PsycINFO, Cochrane Database, Web of Science, Lilacs, African Journals Online and Global Health (July 2009 to December 2020) for longitudinal studies assessing risk factors for first-onset depression among adolescents and young people aged 10–25 years. Meta-analyses generated summary odds ratio (OR) estimates. Registration: PROSPERO CRD42018103973.
Nineteen studies representing 21 unique populations were included in the meta-analysis. Among studies reporting race/ethnicity, 79% of participants were of White/European descent. Seventeen studies were from high-income countries, with only two from an upper-middle-income country (China). Odds for first-onset depression were significantly greater for girls compared to boys (n = 13; OR = 1.78 [1.78, 2.28], p < 0.001) and for youth with other mental health problems at baseline (n = 4; OR = 3.20 [1.95, 5.23], p < 0.001). There were non-significant associations for negative family environment (n = 8; OR = 1.60 [0.82, 3.10], p = 0.16) and parental depression (n = 3; OR = 2.30 [0.73, 7.24], p = 0.16).
Most longitudinal studies do not report risk factors specifically for first-onset depression. Moreover, predictive data are limited to predominantly White populations in high-income countries. Future research must be more ethnically and geographically representative. Recommendations are provided for consistent and comprehensive reporting of study designs and analyses of risk factors for first-onset depression.