De­pres­sion hits preg­nant women 50% more than their mums’ gen­er­a­tion

Daily Mail - - Comment - By Ben Spencer Med­i­cal Cor­re­spon­dent

SO­CIAL me­dia and the pace of mod­ern life are driv­ing up rates of de­pres­sion and anx­i­ety dur­ing pregnancy, re­searchers say.

A study of young Bri­tish women has found men­tal health prob­lems dur­ing pregnancy are 51 per cent more likely than they were a gen­er­a­tion ago.

Ex­perts tracked 2,390 preg­nant women from 1990 to 1992, and then re­peated the pro­ce­dure with 180 of their daugh­ters who were preg­nant between 2012 and 2016.

They found rates of de­pres­sion and anx­i­ety rose from 17 per cent in the first group to 25 per cent in the sec­ond.

The sci­en­tists, from Bris­tol Univer­sity, be­lieve so­cial changes are to blame. They say the trend mir­rors the gen­eral in­crease in de­pres­sion among young women in re­cent years.

‘It is im­por­tant to un­der­stand the po­ten­tial changes in so­ci­ety and life­style that may have con­tributed to the ob­served in­crease,’ they wrote in the jour­nal JAMA Net­work Open.

‘Chronic stress, sleep de­pri­va­tion, eat­ing habits, seden­tary life­style, and the fast pace of mod­ern life may be con­tribut­ing to an in­creas­ing preva­lence of de­pres­sion among young peo­ple gen­er­ally.

‘The im­pact of such changes may be am­pli­fied when a woman be­comes preg­nant. This gen­er­a­tion of young women has also ex­pe­ri­enced rapid change in tech­nol­ogy, in­ter­net, and so­cial me­dia use, which has been as­so­ci­ated with in­creased feel­ings of de­pres­sion and so­cial iso­la­tion and changes to so­cial re­la­tion­ships.’

The re­searchers added: ‘Be­yond the back­ground mech­a­nisms for in­creas­ing de­pres­sion preva­lence among young peo­ple, preg­nant women are likely to face ad­di­tional pres­sures. As com­pared with the 1990s, the pro­por­tion of moth­ers work­ing has in­creased sub­stan­tially, and in­flex­i­ble work ar­range­ments and work pres­sure are as­so­ci­ated with greater de­pres­sive symp­toms in moth­ers. Dif­fi­cul­ties bal­anc­ing work and home may be in­creas­ing, and this may be re­flected by the in­crease of women re­port­ing “things are get­ting too much” com­pared with their mother’s gen­er­a­tion.’

The sci­en­tists found women whose moth­ers were de­pressed in pregnancy were more than three times as likely to suf­fer de­pres­sion in their own pregnancy.

Study author Dr Re­becca Pear­son, said: ‘The re­search shows that de­pres­sion in to­day’s young women may be driven by rises in feel­ing over­whelmed and stressed rather than feel­ings of be­ing down and flat.

‘Given that de­pres­sion in pregnancy has a sub­stan­tial im­pact on both mother and child this is of key im­por­tance for health ser­vices.’

Dr Trudi Senevi­ratne, of the Royal Col­lege of Psy­chi­a­trists, said: ‘Lev­els of de­pres­sion and anx­i­ety in young women are ris­ing – up to 26 per cent amongst 16-24 year olds com­pared to 22 per cent in 2010.

‘It’s no sur­prise, then, to see this trans­lated into the ex­pe­ri­ence of young moth­ers.’

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