By Kate Kuhlman, assistant professor of psychology and social behavior
Every year, depression affects more than 60 million Americans and costs society more than $200 billion. It’s the leading cause of disability, and treating it after it occurs often doesn’t solve the problem; those who are treated effectively for depression have a 50 percent chance of developing another depressive episode. At particular risk are teens. Depression rates rise from 4 percent in childhood to 15 percent at age 15. These teens who develop depression also tend to have more severe and recurrent depression, and they have an alarmingly high risk of suicide and are on trajectories toward poorer social and physical well-being. My team is seeking ways to prevent depression in teens by measuring how they respond behaviorally, cognitively, and biologically to stress in the laboratory. These stress responses can help us identify which teens are at risk for depression in the future, so we can create and test psychological and behavioral interventions that might prevent teenage depressive episodes.