Researchers find biomarker for depression

Courtesy photo
Courtesy photo

Scientists have recently discovered the first known biomarker for clinical depression in adolescent males.

According to a study published in “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences” earlier this month, adolescent males who display depressive symptoms and have higher levels of cortisol in their saliva are about 14 times more likely to develop clinical depression than are their low-cortisol-level counterparts.

This discovery could be revolutionary in the field of diagnosis, allowing for a much earlier diagnosis of depression than medical science was previously capable of. This is especially important in this time, with suicide rates among adolescents on the rise.

Psychology major Phillip Snyder commented on the importance of recognizing depression as an issue among adolescents.

“We should recognize (depression) more,” Snyder said. “People are avoiding the psychological issues at play with this sort of stuff, using it to fight battles over things like gun control instead. If the people wanting to stop teenage suicides and shootings really want to stop them, they need to consider mental health as well.”

“No one action can solve these matters; the situation needs to be approached from every possible angle to make sure that all of the bases are covered,” he said.

The study may have found a link between cortisol levels and depression in adolescent males, but it found no such link in females. This cements the idea that there is a marked gender difference in the toll that depression takes on the body. This gender difference displays itself in more than just the biomarkers of depression.

According to the Center for Disease Control, adolescent males are far more likely to take their own lives than adolescent females, with males accounting for approximately 81 percent of adolescent suicides.

“I’m not surprised to find out that one gender is more susceptible to an affliction than the other; that’s just logical,” Snyder said. “In this case, it seems males may be more susceptible to developing depression than females. The more we know, the better we can identify these problems and treat them to keep the negative effects to a minimum.”

The discovery of a biomarker is just the first step toward truly understanding the disease that is clinical depression. There is still much that is unknown about how depression affects the body, what causes depression to take hold in an individual, what may make individuals more susceptible to depression and more. A great deal of research and close case study is required to truly understand this debilitating illness, though with this discovery, science is one giant leap closer to reaching its end goal of ending depression and saving the lives of millions of adolescents worldwide.

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