Risk Factors for Depression

What Causes Depression?

Many people have asked me “So what causes depression?” There has been extensive research on depression and what we’ve learned is that there is no single cause of depression.  People encounter depression for many different reasons and it is generally a result of multiple causes.  In order to address the multiple causes of depression, we can look at what the possible risk factors for depression are because it is unlikely a person will become depressed over one single factor.

What can be helpful is to know what the possible risk factors are for depression:

1) Biological Factors
Familial History: Research has shown no one inherits depression, however, they do inherit a vulnerability to depression.  This means that some individuals are more vulnerable to depression than others. Some individuals with depression are somewhat more likely to have relatives with depression, however, these statistics are low.  Most children with parents who have depression do not develop depression.
Poor physical health: Individuals who are in poor physical health are more likely to be vulnerable to depression and they tend to recover slowly from depression.
Gender: Women are twice as likely to experience depression compared to men.  This may be a result of hormonal factors like menstruation changes, pregnancy, postpartum period or menopause
-Biochemistry: Poor mood regulation.  Dopamine is a essential neurotransmitter in mood regulation. It also influences motivation and plays a role in how a person perceives reality.  A physician may prescribe a medication to help dopamine stay between the synapses longer before it reuptakes (gets recycled).

2) Psychological Factors
Negative Thinking: Depression creates a negative view of the self and world around us which fuels the depression.  Having a pessimistic view of the world can bring about depression in some cases.
-Chronic Stress: chronic stress has been associated with depression. If you are having trouble coping, chronic stress can wear you down and lead to depression.

3) Environment Factors
-depression can often be triggered by a stressful life event
-Death of a Loved One
Periods of Relationship Conflict: Separation and divorce are risk factors for depression especially in the first three years of the separation or divorce.
-Stressful Workplace
Social Isolation: social support is a protective factor for depression.  However, depression leads one to isolate themselves which makes the depression worse.
-Traumatic events


I believe many people ask me “what causes depression?” because they feel absolutely helpless in the face of depression.  It is important to recognize it is not your fault you have depression and it does not mean there is something inherently wrong with you.  As I just mentioned, there is not one single cause of depression.  It is a result of multiple factors.  Knowing what the risk factors are and learning more about depression, can help you overcome a depressive episode.

Depression is not a sign of weakness.  You would be shocked with some of the people who have had depression.  For example, Robin Williams the comedian who came make anyone laugh suffered from depression.  Many capable, intelligent, and extremely accomplished individuals have been depressed.  Sometimes it may seem like you have everything in the world, and you still cannot shake the monster of depression.  Being “depressed” does not mean you are weak.

You are not alone.  Depression is the most common mental issue in the general population.  According to Statistics Canada’s 2012 Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS) on Mental Health, 1 in 8 adults (12.6%) identified symptoms that met the criteria for a mood disorder at some point during their lifetime, including 11.3% for depression and 2.6% for bipolar disorder. From my experience, I would argue this number is a lot higher.  Many people do not report they have depression due to feeling ashamed or embarrassed as well as many people simply do not understand what depression is so they may not know when they are experiencing it.


Mood Disorders Association of British Columbia offers counselling, support groups, psychoeducation, and assessment services.  If you are concerned about your mental health, visit their psychiatric clinic for a free assessment click here

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *