While it makes sense that traumatic life events would be the biggest cause of depression and anxiety in life, a study recently was conducted by psychologists at the University of Liverpool that says just that.
For the study, researchers from the university’s Institute of Psychology, Health and Society analyzed data collected from more than 32,000 participants between the ages of 18 and 85 who completed the BBC’s online “Stress Test.” This test was designed to look into the causes of stress and what the consequences of that stress is. This was the biggest UK test of its kind, and it found that traumatic life events were the single biggest cause of depression and anxiety. While other causes were also determined during the study, traumatic life events were the biggest cause.
The “Stress Test” was initially launched on BBC Radio 4’s “All in The Mind” program and is available to take on the BBC website.
“Depression and anxiety are not simple conditions and there is no single cause,” professor Peter Kinderman, Head of the Institute of Psychology, Health and Society, who lead the research, said. “We wanted to find out more about what caused people to suffer from anxiety and depression and why some people suffered more than others. Whilst we know that a person’s genetics and life circumstances contribute to mental health problems, the results showed that traumatic life events are the main reason people suffer from anxiety and depression. However, the way a person thinks about, and deals with, stressful events is as much an indicator of the level of stress and anxiety they feel.”
Once a traumatic life event occurs, the mental effect can often change the way a person handles future stress. Currently, depression is being treated with antidepressant medications like Paxil and other SSRIs. But there is a huge need for newer and safer ways to treat depression since the drugs currently on the market have dangerous side effects, including violent and suicidal thoughts and birth defects in children born to mothers taking the drugs. While this study won’t help drug developers create better drugs, it will it least help patients to better manage their stress once they know that they may be able to change how they think after a traumatic life event.