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Heterogeneity of Depressive Symptom Trajectories through Adolescence: Predicting Outcomes in Young Adulthood.

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Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario ; Ontario Tobacco Research Unit, Toronto, Ontario.


in English, French


This study describes developmental trajectories of depressive symptoms in adolescents and examines the association between trajectory group and mental health outcomes in young adulthood.


Depressive symptoms were self-reported every three months from grade seven through grade 11 by 1293 adolescents in the Nicotine Dependence in Teens (NDIT) study and followed in young adulthood (average age 20.4, SD=0.7, n=865). Semi-parametric growth modeling was used to identify sex-specific trajectories of depressive symptoms.


THREE DISTINCT TRAJECTORY GROUPS WERE IDENTIFIED: 50% of boys and 29% of girls exhibited low, decreasing levels of depressive symptoms; 14% of boys and 28% of girls exhibited high and increasing levels; and 36% of boys and 43% of girls exhibited moderate levels with linear increase. Trajectory group was a statistically significant independent predictor of depression, stress, and self-rated mental health in young adulthood in boys and girls. Boys, but not girls, in the high trajectory group had a statistically significant increase in the likelihood of seeking psychiatric care.


Substantial heterogeneity in changes in depressive symptoms over time was found. Because early depressive symptoms predict mental health problems in young adulthood, monitoring adolescents for depressive symptoms may help identify those most at risk and in need of intervention.


adolescents; depressive symptoms; development; latent growth modeling; mental health


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