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