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Background Depressive symptoms show different trajectories throughout childhood and adolescence that may have different consequences for adult outcomes. Aims To examine trajectories of childhood depressive symptoms and their association with education and employment outcomes in early adulthood. Method We estimated latent trajectory classes from participants with repeated measures of self-reported depressive symptoms between 11 and 24 years of age and examined their association with two distal outcomes: university degree and those not in employment, education or training at age 24. Results Our main analyses (n = 9399) yielded five heterogenous trajectories of depressive symptoms. The largest group found (70.5% of participants) had a stable trajectory of low depressive symptoms (stable low). The other four groups had symptom profiles that reached full-threshold levels at different developmental stages and for different durations. We identified the following groups: childhood limited (5.1% of participants) with fullthreshold symptoms at ages 11 13; childhood persistent (3.5%) with full-threshold symptoms at ages 13 24; adolescent onset (9.4%) with full-threshold symptoms at ages 17 19; and earlyadult onset (11.6%) with full-threshold symptoms at ages 22 24. Relative to the majority stable low group, the other four groups all exhibited higher risks of one or both adult outcomes. Conclusions Accurate identification of depressive symptom trajectories requires data spanning the period from early adolescence to early adulthood. Consideration of changes in, as well as levels of, depressive symptoms could improve the targeting of preventative interventions in early-to-mid adolescence.

Original publication




Journal article


BJPsych Open

Publication Date