Dr. Mary Schooling, professor at the CUNY School of Public Health and an international team of investigators examined the association of timing of onset of puberty and the presence of depression in early to middle adolescence. The findings were published in Pediatrics.
[Photo: Dr. Mary Schooling]
Timing of onset of puberty has fallen, with profound and detrimental consequences for health. The researchers examined the associations of age at onset of puberty, based on clinically assessed Tanner stage for breast/genitalia and pubic hair development, and self-reported presence of depression, assessed from the 9-item Patient Health Questionnaire at on average at 13.6 years. Data were from the population-representative Hong Kong Chinese birth cohort (ie, the “Children of 1997”). They also assessed whether associations varied according to gender.
Association of age at onset of breast/genitalia development with the presence of depression varied according to gender. Earlier onset of breast development was associated with higher risk of the presence of depression adjusted for age, socioeconomic position, mother’s place of birth, birth order, secondhand smoke exposure, parental age, survey mode, gender-specific birth weight z score, BMI z score at 7 years, and parental marital status. In boys, similarly adjusted, age at onset of genitalia development was unrelated to the presence of depression. Earlier age at onset of pubic hair development was unrelated to the presence of depression in girls and boys.
The researchers concluded that early onset of breast development was associated with high risk of the presence of depression. They were unsure about whether these findings were due to the effects of hormones or transient effects of social pressures.