Are adolescents with learning disabilities more vulnerable to depression than their non disabled peers?

Self-reported stigma was positively associated with psychological distress

Depression can be difficult to spot in people with learning disabilities. The Royal College of Psychiatrists in its information leaflet points out that for many people with learning disabilities expressing their feelings in words may not come easily, so their actions may speak for them. They suggest that sudden changes in behaviour or mood, or loss of abilities could be signs of depression.

In this study, the authors looked at the nature of the developmental risk factors associated with depression found in typically developing adolescents and how they may interact with the life experiences of adolescents with learning disabilities and influence their vulnerability to depression.

They suggest that the evidence on lifestyle in adolescents with learning disabilities shows that they typically experience a greater level of depression than those without learning disabilities and that developmental risk factors predictive of depression in adolescents without learning disabilities are more likely to be present for adolescents with learning disabilities because of their specific social experiences. They describe these as experience of social stigma attached to learning disability, increased exposure to negative life-events, social and emotion recognition deficits and increased rates of parental stress.

They conclude that considering these developmental factors and their interaction with the person’s social environment should offer a the potential for a framework for prevention and early intervention.

Vulnerability to depression in adolescents with intellectual disabilities (PDF), Kiddle H & Dagnan D, in Advances in Mental Health and Intellectual Disabilities, 5, 1, 3-8.

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Andre Tomlin

André Tomlin is an Information Scientist with 20 years experience working in evidence-based healthcare. He's worked in the NHS, for Oxford University and since 2002 as Managing Director of Minervation Ltd, a consultancy company who do clever digital stuff for charities, universities and the public sector. Most recently André has been the driving force behind the Mental Elf and the National Elf Service; an innovative digital platform that helps professionals keep up to date with simple, clear and engaging summaries of evidence-based research. André is a Trustee at the Centre for Mental Health and an Honorary Research Fellow at University College London Division of Psychiatry. He lives in Bristol, surrounded by dogs, elflings and lots of woodland!

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