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Test could predict which teen boys will get depression

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LONDON (AP) - A saliva test for teenage boys with mild symptoms of depression could help identify those who will later develop major depression, a new study says.

Researchers measured the stress hormone cortisol in teenage boys and found that ones with high levels coupled with mild depression symptoms were up to 14 times more likely to suffer clinical depression later in life than those with low or normal cortisol levels.

The test was tried on teenage boys and girls, but found to be most effective with boys.

About one in six people suffer from clinical depression at some point in their lives, and most mental health disorders start before age 24. There is currently no biological test to spot depression.

"This is the emergence of a new way of looking at mental illness," Joe Herbert of the University of Cambridge and one of the study authors said at a news conference on Monday. "You don't have to rely simply on what the patient tells you, but what you can measure inside the patient," he said.

Herbert compared the new test to ones done for other health problems, such as heart disease, which evaluate things such as cholesterol and high blood sugar to determine a patient's risk.

Herbert and colleagues at the University of Cambridge observed more than 1,800 teenagers aged 12 to 19 and examined their cortisol levels with saliva tests. The researchers also collected the teens' own reports of depression symptoms and tracked diagnoses of mental health disorders in them for up to three years later.

The boys who had high cortisol levels and mild depression symptoms were up to 14 times more likely to suffer from clinical depression when compared to other teens with normal levels, while girls with similarly elevated cortisol levels were only up to four times more likely to develop the condition. The study was paid for by the Wellcome Trust and the results were published online Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academies of Science.

Experts suggested that cortisol might affect boys and girls differently.

"All hormones, including sexual hormones, influence brain function and behavior," said Dr. Carmine Pariante, a professor of biological psychiatry at the Institute of Psychiatry at King's College London. He was not linked to the study.

Pariante said the gender-specific hormones - androgen for males and estrogen and progesterone for females - might react differently to cortisol and could explain the difference in risk for teenage boys and girls.

Pariante said the saliva test was promising and could help target psychological help such as talk therapy for boys at risk of developing depression. Scientists are increasingly searching for physical markers in the body of psychiatric illnesses instead of relying exclusively on a diagnosis based on a patient consultation.

"This gives us a biological model to understand mental health problems the way we understand other medical conditions," he said, comparing it to how doctors might diagnose a broken leg based on an X-ray or identify heart disease patients based on high blood pressure or cholesterol readings. "It will help us identify patients at risk so we can try to help them as soon as possible."

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carnut122 February 18 2014 at 10:40 AM

I think the article should read: "Depression predicts which patients have high cortisol levels." Sometimes we confuse cause and effect.

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korbynrichardson February 18 2014 at 9:35 AM

the reasons why most have mild to severe depression is because of the chemicals out there today!! its BULLs*** that they say "they just have depression because its a normal stage of life" again bullsh**... the fluoride in the water and a whole bunch of other sh** is the REAL reason!!! look this website up!! http://www.infowars.com/ they tell you the truth! dont believe the bullsh** that is being put in your head by the press... if you do believe them well then you and your kid(s) kinda deserve it...


and if your asking yourself "how the he** does this guy know?" well.. im a kid 15 going on 16 i've had depression as long as i can remember...

Do this for me... buy distilled water enough for 2 weeks and ONLY drink it.. ( milk and orange juice is fine too ) and watch your kid(s) grade SKYROCKET!!! (if its worked for me, it can work for you)

All im doing is asking for you to trust me... that may be hard for some... but i understand... in this country that we live in can be a he**pit from he** its self... JUST TRY IT...

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magneson February 18 2014 at 3:48 AM

This is a tough crowd you are playing to. Better try a little harder next time.

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Russ February 18 2014 at 9:32 AM

Makes you wonder how our grand parents & great grand parents .... ?

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eaglgrp February 18 2014 at 8:34 AM

Many of the maladies that exist today seem to have been created. Twenty years ago no one ever heard of ADHD, PTSD, BI-POLAR etc and certainly did not take pills for it. Maybe we're all a bit bi-polar, a little stressed over something and too damn lazy to learn but we sure can give it a fancy name. Here's a new one for you PLOM Syndrome (meaning: Poor Little Old Me). Give it a rest and stop making excuses for everyday life and learn to deal with it.

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1 reply
jsim6974 eaglgrp February 18 2014 at 9:01 AM

Huh? These "maladies" have been around a long time and weren't "created." As in any field, new advances in research allows better understanding and treatments.

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1 reply
eaglgrp jsim6974 February 18 2014 at 9:11 AM

jsim, feel better now??

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ymajd February 18 2014 at 11:25 AM

Stop spanking children and creating stress in their bodies thatn lead to the increased cortisol levels, and start using kind words with love as a way to raise our children and you wouldn't be dealing with these problems now.

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nikkitytom February 18 2014 at 4:00 AM

Mercifully I lived in an era when every little personality quirk wasn't assigned a fancy medical term and my parents and I dealt with it. I was ADD big time. Barely able to sit still and living in multiple fantasy worlds. Then somebody ran a Standford Binet test on me and the problem was located. An IQ stiffled with boredom. My parents solution wasn't medication ... it was three sharp taps on a table to bring me to attention. And those taps did it. Because in my era we had two parent families, and we had discipline. Now as an adult, I revel in that ADD .... jumping gleefully from one learning experience to another. But I also learned when to sit still.

Now these poor darlings will be subjected to the "hothouse" treatment, with every care being taken not to awaken that dark depression lurking in their bodies. Well as a child my sisters and I weren't allowed "moods" ... if there was no reason for the sulks, we wer sent to our rooms to perk up. It worked.

Three happy sisters, all successful ... all balanced. None of use ever medicated or given "excuses" ... we learned to cope. And we've done so ... well and happily,

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4 replies
hunley257 February 18 2014 at 11:40 AM

Actually there is a DNA test that can tell if you have a mutation of certain genes that affects mood. Check out MTHFR A1298C and MTHFR C677T . Brain stimulation involves a variety of life experiences which keeps us active and healthy. It is a process. We can increase our cortisol levels with interaction with others. Try visiting friends or making new friends. Build relationships on deeper levels. Push pass the fear, ignore it and focus on other people and not yourself. Make some else happy and you will become happy.

From government research on soldiers with tramatic brain injury we now also know that we can rebuild neurons in the brain by exercising the brain. I found LearningRx which with one on one training has excellent results. It's not just brain games.

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Liebchken February 18 2014 at 2:54 AM

There is a simple neurotransmitter test via urine that measures markers namely dopamine and serotonin that gives a definite result of biological depression. But the shrinks won't tell you that.

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1 reply
J. Craig Liebchken February 18 2014 at 7:10 AM

Dopamine & Seratonin...and a definite result of biological depression.....really? Believe me the professionals DO KNOW about this...as this is the main platform for the usage of DRUGS; It's called Neuropsychology! This is not a secret. And there is no scientific evidence that exists to validate the Seratonin & Dopamine theory. I know.I know...you'll say there is!! LOL...it's not scientific...it is [as the Professionals say] "Thought To...." gotta listen carefully to the wording in advertising and Marketing!!

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jko9721735 February 18 2014 at 1:46 AM

I don't know what is supposed to happen after these tests are performed. While it may be nice to know who may be predisposed to depression, what actions should be taken as a consequence of the results? Lifetime suicide watch? And isn't there a possibility of triggering a self-fulfilling prophecy? That once stigmatized as being predisposed to being somehow at-risk for depression, the individual or the social group around the individual modifies their behavior to enable the very condition the patient is prone to. Behavior and depression is virtually impossible to quantifiably assess, and pharmacologic treatment may be initiated when none is warranted.

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