Early diagnosis of depression in children and treatment, especially for children of divorcing parents, can help.
New research on teen depression reveals that those with depression are 13 times more likely to pick up smoking, and that the children of divorced parents are about 50 percent more likely to take up the habit.
Besides the fact that one-third of the depressed children were daily smokers by age 19—compared with only 2.5 percent of their non-depressed peers—researchers found that nearly a quarter of the depressed teens were obese and that they were the least active of all three groups overall.
Researchers can’t say that depression directly causes an increased risk of heart problems, but the behaviors associated with depression, including inactivity and cigarette smoking, can increase cardiac risk.
“Depression seems to come first,” first author Robert M. Carney, a professor of psychiatry at Washington University, said in a press release. “It's playing an important, if not a causal, role....
Previous research has shown that childhood stress, depression, and obesity can lead to adverse health effects beyond smoking. This includes an increased risk of alcohol use and suicide.
These studies highlight the importance of properly (and promptly) treating mental health issues in children.
Also, advocating a healthy, active lifestyle has been shown to help children cope with stress more effectively so that they don’t pick up bad habits.