Early periods may increase the risk of depression in adulthood: study

Girls who enter puberty early are at a greater risk of depression and antisocial behaviour in early and middle adulthood. Getty Images

Girls who start their periods early have an increased risk of depression and behavioural problems before the age of 30, reports an American study published in the journal Pediatrics.

In a study of 7,802 women from puberty to around the age of 30, three American researchers noted that those who started their periods at age 12 or younger had a greater risk of depression and antisocial behaviour more than 10 years after adolescence.

READ MORE: Early periods associated with diabetes in pregnancy, study finds

The study analysed a group of women who had their first period on average at the age of 12, with 19 per cent at the age of 11, seven per cent at age 10, and one per cent at age seven.

While not positing a direct link between early puberty and the emergence of depression or antisocial behaviour in teenagers, the researchers suggested that early puberty is one of several risk factors for depression and should be taken into account.

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Ellen Selkie, a psychologist for teenagers who wrote an accompanying commentary, advises that if a child develops earlier than others, it is important that parents pay attention to her feelings and behaviour to prevent problems emerging later on.

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The researchers suggest the hormonal upheaval arising from exposure to estrogens at an early age could explain the higher risk of depression in young women.

They also linked early physical changes and the feeling of being different that some girls experience with the psychological fragility accompanying puberty.

READ MORE: All moods may be contagious, but experts say depression isn’t

More generally, early puberty, which has many causes and is increasingly common, is thought to be linked to the development of certain diseases in adulthood, including gestational diabetes.

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Endocrine disruptors (such as pesticides, phthalates, and bisphenol A) are suspected of being involved in a number of conditions such as obesity, diabetes and early puberty.

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