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Early puberty in girls a warning sign of later depression?

Early puberty in girls a warning sign of later depression?


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How does early menstruation affect the likelihood of depression?

When girls reach puberty early, they are more likely to develop depression and behavior problems. This applies until the girl has reached the age of almost 30 years.

In their study, researchers at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York found that early onset of puberty increased the risk of depression and behavioral problems in girls compared to girls who started menstruation later. The researchers published the results of their study in the English-language journal "Pediatrics".

Doctors examine almost 7,800 test subjects for their study

For their study, the experts examined almost 7,800 women who had their first menstrual cycle at an average age of twelve years. These women were interviewed a total of four times, from the age of 16 to about the age of 28. The researchers found that when girls reached puberty earlier, they were more often depressed.

Past puberty often leads to behavioral problems in girls

The earlier girls get their first period, the stronger the connection between early puberty and psychological problems, the authors of the study explain. The effects are greater if, for example, a girl started menstruating at the age of eight compared to girls whose menstruation started at the age of ten. Due to early puberty, the girls affected also exhibited behavioral problems more frequently. The effects are varied: for example, the girls lied and stole more often, they also broke into houses more often and were also more often in contact with drugs. These negative effects often lasted until young adulthood, the authors explain.

Puberty has a strong impact on later depression in adulthood

Interestingly, the degree of association between puberty and these psychological difficulties remains stable, the doctors say. This means that puberty is as strongly associated with depressive symptoms and antisocial behavior in adulthood as it is in adolescence, explains author Jane Mendle from Cornell University. This indicates that the psychological vulnerability (vulnerability) of earlier puberty lasts longer than we previously expected, adds the expert.

Puberty is a very difficult time

Extensive changes in biology, appearance, self-awareness and emotion make puberty one of the most important developmental phases throughout the life span. Although puberty can be a difficult time for all adolescents, girls who are physically older than their peers can be particularly hard hit by the effects. Because physical maturation is associated with changes in social roles and relationships, this has so far been associated with certain factors in life and changes in the brain that could make young people particularly susceptible to behavioral problems and mental health problems, the doctors say.

Participating women had to answer various questions

For their study, the researchers examined the data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. The nationwide representative survey includes young people from a wide range of ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds. The surveys examined in the present study were carried out from 1994 to 2008. The questions asked focused on the onset of menstruation and also included some symptoms of depression that adolescents had experienced in the past week. The frequency of so-called anti-social behavior such as lying, stealing and drug trafficking was also asked.

Women are particularly at risk after early puberty

If women suffer from depression as adults, it could be because they had already experienced symptoms of depression during adolescence, the doctors suspect. As a result, they remained particularly at risk over time. The researchers also found that after early puberty, the risk of antisocial behavior in adulthood was not as pronounced compared to the risk of depression.

Pre-mature girls are often treated as if they were actually older

It is possible that a variety of factors that were not examined in the study could be, at least in part, the cause of early puberty related to the risk of depression and behavior problems. From a social perspective, girls who develop early are often treated as if they were older. This can cause such girls to contact older children to better adapt. However, this also means that the girls concerned are involved in things for which they are actually not yet mature enough. The feeling of not really belonging can then lead to mood swings and behavioral problems, which are memorized as behavior patterns that can also trigger problems in adulthood. (as)

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