HealthDay News — Antenatal depression in mothers is a risk factor for adult depression in their offspring, according to a study published in JAMA Psychiatry.

Rebecca M. Pearson, PhD, from University of Bristol in the United Kingdom, and colleagues utilized prospective data from more than 4,500 parents and their adolescent offspring participating in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children. Associations were investigated between symptoms of antenatal and postnatal parental depression with diagnosed offspring depression at age 18 years.

The researchers found that antenatal depression was an independent risk factor, with offspring being 1.28 times more likely to have depression for each standard deviation increase in maternal depression score antenatally.

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For mothers with low education, postnatal depression was also a risk factor, with offspring 1.26 times more likely to have depression for each standard deviation increase in postnatal depression score. This association did not hold for more educated mothers (odds ratio, 1.09; P = 0.42). Antenatally, paternal depression was not associated with offspring depression; however, postnatally, paternal depression showed a similar pattern to maternal depression.

“The findings suggest that treating maternal depression antenatally could prevent offspring depression during adulthood and that prioritizing less advantaged mothers postnatally may be most effective,” the researchers wrote.


  1. Pearson R et al. JAMA Psychiatry. 2013; doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2013.2163.