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Breaking the cycle?

Intergenerational transmission of depression/anxiety and opportunities for intervention
PhD ceremony:Ms P.J. (Petra) Havinga
When:February 10, 2020
Supervisors:prof. dr. R.A. (Robert) Schoevers, dr. C.A. (Catharina) Hartman
Co-supervisor:dr. L. Boschloo
Where:Academy building RUG
Faculty:Medical Sciences / UMCG
Breaking the cycle?

The aim of this thesis was to improve our knowledge of the intergenerational transmission of depressive/anxiety disorders and to shed light on possibilities to decrease the risk that these disorders pass down from one generation to the next.

This thesis shows that offspring of depressed/anxious patients are at considerable risk to suffer from a similar disorder as their parents: the cumulative incidence estimate for offspring mood/anxiety disorders was 38% at age 20 and 65% at the age of 35. A large part of offspring develop these conditions somewhere during secondary school and in young adulthood, at an age in which many important steps in life have to be taken (e.g., finishing studies, develop and maintain friendships). As such, even if these conditions are limited to a single episode, they can have a significant impact on a person’s life. In the present thesis, we found that almost all offspring who developed a mood/anxiety disorder themselves, eventually seek help, but delays in help-seeking were common. In addition, we found that a parental history of depression/anxiety may forebode a less favorable disorder course. Our findings further indicate that it may be possible to prevent the onset of depression/anxiety in offspring, delay it and/or reduce symptom levels. All in all, the results of this thesis highlight the need to expand efforts to interrupt the cycle of intergenerational transmission. This requires the development, implementation and evaluation of prevention and treatment strategies. We recommend to start with integrating family-focused practice in adult mental health care. If no further action is taken, the cycle will never be broken.

Additional informationThe work described in this thesis is based on data of two longitudinal cohort studies.

Adolescents at Risk of Anxiety and Depression: a Neurobiological and Epidemiological approach (ARIADNE)ARIADNE is a cohort study examining the onset and course of mood and anxiety disorders among 523 offspring (baseline age, 13-25 years) of 366 patients who had received specialized treatment for depressive/anxiety disorder.

Netherlands Study of Depression and Anxiety (NESDA)NESDA is an ongoing naturalistic cohort study aimed at examining the long-term course and consequences of depressive and anxiety disorders in 2.981 adults (baseline age: 18-65 years).