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Depression: Top Causes and Risk Factors

Depression: Top Causes and Risk Factors

Depression is a condition that leads to a different kind of sadness. People with depression often find it hard to study, work, or do daily routines. Depression is a major health problem that affects millions of people worldwide. Despite this, a large number of people with depression do not seek help. This could be due to the stigma related to mental health problems, or a lack of understanding about the causes and risk factors of depression.

According to the Department of Health, an estimated 3.3 million Filipinos suffer from a form of depression. Additionally, about 2.5% of males and 1.7% of females with depression in the Philippines commit suicide. Depression is a serious problem, but it can be treated, and people with depression are able to function well in society.

6 Common Misconceptions about Depression

But what exactly causes depression, and what things can increase your risk for depression?

Causes and Risk Factors of Depression

Depression is a condition that can be caused by a number of factors. It usually takes a combination of things, and there is no single cause for depression. Depression can also develop gradually over time, and certain things can “trigger” a depressive episode. Here are some of the possible causes and risk factors of depression.

Changes in brain chemistry

Your brain produces chemicals called neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters act as messengers between neurons or the cells of the brain. Scientists have discovered that a lack of these neurotransmitters can affect a person’s mood, and can be one cause of depression.

This is also one reason why treatment for depression can vary from person to person. Each person’s brain chemistry is unique, so a single form of treatment will not always work. Depression treatment also changes over time, and your doctor can prescribe a different type of medication if your previous medication is no longer effective.

Hormonal changes

Your body’s hormones are responsible for regulating a number of your body’s functions. This also means that hormonal changes brought about by pregnancy, menopause, andropause, and thyroid problems, can also trigger depression.

Postpartum depression, is a condition that is most associated with these hormonal changes. Because a woman’s body changes so much during pregnancy and after pregnancy, the changes in the levels of hormones in their body can trigger depression. For men, going through andropause, or the decline of testosterone in the body, is also associated with depression.

Any sickness or condition that affects the production of hormones in the thyroid can also trigger depression. Researchers have found that a lack of these hormones can cause changes in a person’s mood, including depression.

Having a family history of depression

Depression can also be hereditary, or passed down from parent to child. Researchers are still unsure as to why this happens, but they believe that a certain combination of genes might be responsible.


Certain personality traits are also believed to be more predisposed to having depression more than others. Traits such as having low self-esteem, or being overly critical of oneself can increase a person’s risk for depression. Being overly neurotic, or having the tendency to worry about things in ways beyond reason, is also a predisposing factor to depression.

These personality traits can be the result of events in the past, or they can also be genetic.

Traumatic events

Coming to terms with traumatic or stressful events is difficult for people to do. Whenever a loved one dies, or a relationship fails, this can increase a person’s risk of being depressed.

It is important to know that depression is not caused by just one traumatic event. However, a traumatic event can trigger a depressive state. People who have a higher risk of being depressed are more prone to depression caused by traumatic events.

Pregnancy and birth

Pregnancy also causes a lot of hormonal changes in women, which can increase their risk for depression. Aside from this, some women develop anxiety about being a mother or are worried if they would be able to care for their child. These feelings, combined with hormonal changes, can also trigger depression.

Alcohol and drug use

Some people tend to lean on alcohol and drug use in order to cope with their problems. But instead of helping, these habits only serve to make their depression worse. Drinking alcohol and using drugs can affect a person’s brain chemistry, which can increase their risk for depression.

Too much alcohol and drug use can also alienate a person from their loved ones, and this can trigger depression.

Here’s how depression can affect you:

causes and risk factors of depression

How Can You Manage Depression?

If you or a loved one is suffering from depression, here are some things that you can do in order to help:

  • The most important thing would be to seek treatment for your depression. Your doctor would best be able to provide you the best forms of treatment for your depression.
  • Exercise is also a good way of handling depression. Exercise can help boost a person’s mood and improve their overall health.
  • Eating right can also help with depression. Eating food that makes your body feel good and healthy can have an impact on your mental health.
  • Meditation and mindfulness exercises can also help a person deal with depression. Meditation and mindfulness can help a person become more “present” and avoid thoughts that can trigger their depression.
  • Talking to other people, such as friends or in a support group can help with depression. Talking makes you feel that you are not alone, and learning about other people’s experiences can help you understand your depression better.
  • Take the time to relax. Stress at work can cause a toll on a person’s mental and physical health. This is why it is important to take a break and focus on spending some time for yourself.

Always remember, do not be afraid to seek help or to talk to someone about your condition. Having someone you can lean on can help you better cope with your condition and strive towards getting better.

Learn more about a Healthy Mind here.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


Clinical depression – Treatment – NHS, https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/clinical-depression/treatment/, Accessed June 15 2020

Depression (major depressive disorder) – Symptoms and causes – Mayo Clinic, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/symptoms-causes/syc-20356007, Accessed June 15 2020

New Study: Vast Majority Of People With Depression Do Not Seek Treatment : Goats and Soda : NPR, https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2016/12/02/504131307/study-vast-majority-of-people-who-are-depressed-do-not-seek-help, Accessed June 15 2020

What causes depression – Beyond Blue, https://www.beyondblue.org.au/the-facts/depression/what-causes-depression, Accessed June 15 2020

DOH: 3.3 million Filipinos suffer from depressive disorders, https://www.gmanetwork.com/news/lifestyle/healthandwellness/681785/doh-3-3-million-filipinos-suffer-from-depressive-disorders/story/, Accessed June 15 2020

Depression, https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/depression, Accessed June 15 2020

The Link between Thyroid Function and Depression, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3246784/, Accessed June 15 2020

Major Depression and Genetics | Genetics of Brain Function | Stanford Medicine, https://med.stanford.edu/depressiongenetics/mddandgenes.html, Accessed June 15 2020

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Written by Jan Alwyn Batara Updated Jun 04
Medically reviewed by Mike-Kenneth Go Doratan, M.D.