Certain risk factors increase an individualÕs risk for developing chronic depression. Unlike a major depressive episode (called episodic depression), which is often caused by short-term or sudden traumatic experiences, chronic depression symptoms last for more than two years. Chronic depression risk factors include conditions and situations that may affect a person’s life on a long-term basis.

Chronic Depression Risk Factors: Family History

Chronic depression is one of many conditions with a certain level of familial heritability. A family history of depression, mood disorders or anxiety disorders can increase your chances of developing depressive disorders, including chronic depression. Genetics may also play a role in developing chronic depression. Though depression is not a genetic disorder, genetic and hereditary factors may make some individuals more susceptible to chronic depression.

Personal and Medical History Risk Factors

Overall health and past experiences may be increased chronic depression risk factors. For example, chronic or terminal illness can affect an individualÕs chances of experiencing prolonged chronic depression symptoms. Chronic pain associated with some illnesses, such as cancer or rheumatoid arthritis, can lead to chronic depression, especially when coupled with the emotional toll associated with a chronic or incurable disease.

Aspects of personal history are also chronic depression risk factors. Past behaviors (such as substance abuse), and past experiences, particularly those traumatic in nature (like childhood abuse) may increase risk factors of depression. In addition, chronic depression, especially dysthymia, is more likely to begin in childhood. Symptoms that begin at a young age are likely to persist as chronic depression later on in life. Finally, risk is influenced by gender, as women are more likely than men to develop chronic depression.

Lifestyle Factors of Depression

Lifestyle and environment may influence whether depression symptoms are chronic or episodic. Chronic high stress, as well as severe, short-term stress, can contribute to major depression. These stressors may include job loss or death of a loved one. Sudden and severe stress can also cause major depressive episodes in sufferers of dysthymia or chronic depression. This co-occurrence of both types of depression is known as double depression.

Personality can also influence susceptibility to depression. Someone with a pessimistic personality or a negative outlook on life may have a cyclical relationship with chronic depression symptoms. That is, personality and outlook can be intensified by chronic depression, but these negative beliefs and feelings can also help to perpetuate it. This cyclical tendency is part of what makes chronic depression so difficult to treat.


Harvard Health Publications Staff. (2009). Managing chronic depression. Retrieved May 30, 2010, from the Harvard Health Publications Website: www.health.harvard.edu/newsletters/Harvard_Mental_Health_Letter/2009/December/managing-chronic-depression.

Mayo Clinic Staff. (n.d.). Dysthymia (dysthymic disorder). Retrieved May 30, 2010, from the Mayo Clinic website: www.mayoclinic.com/health/dysthymia/DS01111.

Medline Plus Staff. (n.d.). Dysthymia. Retrieved May 30, 2010, from the Medline Plus website: www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000918.htm.

Mood Disorders Research Program Staff. (n.d.). Q and A about dysthymic disorder (chronic depression). Retrieved May 31, 2010, from the Columbia University Medical Center website: www.depressionny.com/q&a.htm.

Penn State University – Milton S. Hershey Medical Center College of Medicine (n.d.) Chronic depression. Retrieved May 30, 2010, from the Penn State University – Milton S. Hershey Medical Center College of Medicine website:www.hmc.psu.edu/healthinfo/d/depression.htm.

 Posted on : June 26, 2014