Depression during pregnancy hits millennials harder than it did their mothers in the early 1990s, reveals a new study published on July 13 in the Journal of the American Medical Association: Network Open (JAMA).
Conducted by scientists from the University of Bristol in the U.K., the research started a generation ago by examining the health of expectant women and followed up to track the health of their children — now in their late 20s.
Since some of the 90s’ kids are now parents themselves, the team found a great opportunity to investigate how much either generation was affected by depression during pregnancy, notes Gizmodo.
The results revealed that young mothers today are a lot more vulnerable to depression than the previous generation. In fact, prenatal depression is 51 percent more common among millennial mothers-to-be compared to pregnant women 25 years ago, reports Newsweek.
The 1990s’ Moms
The initial group of mothers enlisted by the team at the beginning of the study comprised of 2,390 women in Southwest England, who were pregnant between 1990 and 1992.
Of all the mothers in the first group, only 17 percent struggled with high levels of depression symptoms during their pregnancy — as shown by screening tests designed to evaluate depression rates in mothers before and after giving birth.
The Millennial Mothers
Meanwhile, the new-generation mothers made up a smaller group of just 180 women. However, their score rates for prenatal depression were much higher compared to those of the 1990s’ moms.
Pregnant millennials may get depression more than their mothers in the 1990s https://t.co/JRyfdcAQeZ pic.twitter.com/vUjf61tiWr
— Gizmodo (@Gizmodo) July 13, 2018
A quarter of the young mothers reported battling with high levels of depression symptoms, such as anxiety, unnecessary self-blame, worry, and sleeping problems.
The Study’s Conclusions
According to the British researchers, the rise in depression rates among young mothers could be connected to stress over unsteady jobs and poor income, as well as the challenges of balancing work and home life.
“Chronic stress, sleep deprivation, eating habits, sedentary lifestyle, and the fast pace of modern life may be contributing to an increasing prevalence of depression among young people generally,” the authors wrote.
However, the differences in depression rates remained the same even after accounting for other known factors that lead to depression, such as body mass index, education level, or history of smoking.
Even after comparing mother and daughter pairs directly, pregnant millennials still fared worse on the depression scale than their own parents did 25 years earlier.
#Depression Affects More Pregnant Millennials Than Other Generations, According To A New Study https://t.co/gMJQmfvwi4
— Jean-François Claude, M.S.M. ???? (@JFClaude_GC) July 15, 2018
In fact, the study uncovered that depression during pregnancy can be intergenerational, since 54 percent of millennials whose mothers reported high levels of prenatal depression during pregnancy went through the same thing when they became pregnant.
Age was also a factor that influenced prenatal depression rates. Both generations of mothers became pregnant between the ages of 19 and 24, notes Bustle. Though not part of the study, 18-year-old mothers-to-be are actually the most vulnerable to prenatal depression, notes the team.
“Given that very young age at pregnancy is a risk factor for depression, this would suggest that, if anything, depression in [millennial women] is underestimated and the increase could be greater,” the researchers show in the study.
While it remains unclear whether the results reflect an actual rise in depression rates or more cases are now being reported because the stigma around mental health issues has started to be lifted, the researchers advocate for increased depression screening among young mothers.
“The findings highlight the need for increased screening and resources to support young pregnant women and minimize the potentially far-reaching impact of depression on mothers, their children, and future generations,” the authors wrote in their paper.