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Depression Worsens with Age in Addicted Women

Bad news for addiction-prone women -- depression doesn't decline with age.

The study from the University of Michigan Health System looked at more than 200 women over a 12-year period. The research shows that unlike alcohol abuse and antisocial behavior, depression does not, by itself, get better over time - it actually gets worse.

"Unlike the other two disorders, biological differences are a more of a constant factor in depression," said the study's senior author Robert Zucker, Ph.D., a professor of psychiatry and psychology at the University of Michigan Medical School and director of the U-M Addiction Research Center.

Among the study's other top findings:

-- The women's partners' struggles with addiction and antisocial behavior, such as run-ins with the law, worsened the women's own symptoms and behaviors.

-- Children's behavior also had a negative impact on their mothers. When children exhibited behaviors that included acting out and getting into trouble, their mothers' alcohol problems and antisocial behavior tended to worsen. Meanwhile, when children were sad, withdrawn or isolated, their mothers' depression increased.

-- Living in an unstable neighborhood, where residents move in and out frequently, also had a significant effect on the women's alcohol problems and level of depression.

"Our findings demonstrate the complexity of the factors affecting changes in alcohol problems, antisocial behavior and depression for these women," Zucker said.

The findings challenge common notions that depression, alcoholism and antisocial behavior, are either just genetic disorders, or alternatively, that they are caused by environmental factors, Zucker added.

"It's really the network of these relationships -- at the biological, social and at the community level -- that appear to influence these disorders over time," he said.

The research is published in Development and Psychopathology.

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