Veteran's Health Library Menu

Health Encyclopedia

Risk Factors for Depression 

Experts don't know why some people get depression and others don't. But certain things make you more likely to get depression. These are called risk factors.

Important risk factors for depression include:

  • Having a father, mother, brother, or sister who has had depression

  • Having had depression before

  • Having posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

  • One-time stressful events, such as the death of a loved one, losing your independence or your job, or having a serious accident

Other risk factors include:

  • Long-term (chronic) stressful situations, such as living in poverty, having marriage or family problems, or helping someone who has a long-term medical problem

  • Physical or sexual abuse in childhood or in a relationship, such as domestic abuse or violence

  • Getting older

Medical risk factors

Medical problems also may cause depression or make it worse. These problems include:

  • Abusing drugs or alcohol.

  • Having a long-term (chronic) health problem, such as coronary artery disease, diabetes, cancer, or chronic pain.

  • Having a mental health problem or behavior disorder, such as PTSD, dementia, anxiety disorder, or an eating disorder.

  • Having had a recent serious illness or surgery.

  • Having a health problem such as anemia or an underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism). Treating the health problem usually cures the depression.

  • Using certain medicines, such as steroids or narcotics. If you stop using the medicine, the depression will probably go away.

Other risk factors for women

Women may have other risk factors. These include:

  • Menopause

  • Pregnancy or recent childbirth

  • Use of birth control pills (oral contraceptives)

  • A history of premenstrual dysphoric disorder (severe premenstrual syndrome)


Author: StayWell Custom Communications
Last Annual Review Date: 7/1/2018
Copyright © The StayWell Company, LLC. except where otherwise noted.
Disclaimer - Opens 'Disclaimer' in Dialog Window | Help | About Veterans Health Library