Depression across the lifespan

We may all recall the feeling of a certain amount of sadness at some point in our lives. A diagnosis of depression however is typically made if at least a few signs are evidence such as an emotional state of profound sadness disproportionate to the individual’s life situation, a loss of interest or pleasure in previously enjoyable activities and feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness and helplessness (Carr, 2008). Bear in mind that not every individual displays all the symptoms of depression.

There is some variation in the symptoms and signs of depression across the lifespan. Children who experience depression may appear agitated, overactive or even aggressive. In adolescence, depression is sometimes manifested by pessimism, antisocial behaviour and a feeling of being misunderstood. Often, sleep disturbances can be the first biological factor that something is not right.

Amongst adults, depression is often characterised by distractibility and memory loss. Paying attention becomes exhausting because individuals experiencing depression find it difficult to take in what they read and what others say to them. Conversation becomes a chore. There seems to be a preference to be alone and remain silent. They may speak slowly after long pauses using a monotonous voice. When people who are depressed are confronted with a problem, often it can be difficult for them to come up with ideas for a solution. Their thoughts are predominantly focused upon self-recrimination and they may also neglect personal appearance. Negative self-talk is evidenced by statements such as “I am useless” and is a common characteristic of both depression and anxiety.

Often, depression can be associated with other psychological and/or medical conditions (Hammen & Rudolph, 2003). For instance, when conflict within the family unit increases, a child can withdraw from other people and may become depressed. Some children may also become very distressed about the level of anxiety that they are experiencing. When this is the case, depression is best viewed as being secondary to the anxiety condition.

The link between anxiety and depression

Often manifestations of anxiety and depression overlap through childhood and adulthood. Anxiety which is left untreated in childhood may lead to the development of depression in adolescence (Barrett et al., 2006). Early intervention programs can therefore help to prevent the development of anxiety and depression before more serious emotional difficulties may occur. By promoting emotional resilience and helpful coping skills in the community, this presents a significant opportunity to prevent a great deal of mental health suffering for not only individuals, but for the wider community too.

Resilience Kit runs developmentally targeted evidence-based resilience programs for the prevention and reduction of anxiety. Parallel programs for parents are available in the following programs for children:

Ages 4 – 7 years

Ages 8 – 11 years

Ages 12 – 15 years


Barrett, P. M., Farrell, L. J.,  Ollendick, T. H., & Dadds, M. (2006). Long-term outcomes of an Australian universal prevention trial of anxiety and depression symptoms in children and youth: An evaluation of the FRIENDS Program. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, 35, 403-411.
Bienvenu, O. J., & Ginsburg, G. S. (2007). Prevention of anxiety disorders. International Reviews of Psychiatry, 19, 647-654.