OBJECTIVE: This study aimed to determine the impact of teen depression on peer, family, school, and physical functioning and the burden on parents.

METHODS: Patients participated in a longitudinal study of teens with and without probable depression, drawn from 11 primary care offices in Los Angeles, California, and Washington, DC. A total of 4856 teens completed full screening assessments; 4713 were eligible for the study, and 187 (4.0%) met the criteria for probable depression and were invited to participate, as were teens who were not depressed. A total of 184 baseline assessments for teens with probable depression and 184 for nondepressed teens were completed, as were 339 (90%) parent interviews. Follow-up interviews were conducted with 328 teens (89%) and 302 parents (82%). Measures included teen reports of peer and parent support, 2 measures of school functioning, grades, physical health, and days of impairment. Parent reports included peer, school, and family functioning and subjective and objective burdens on parents.

RESULTS: Teens with depression and their parents reported more impairment in all areas, compared with teens without depression at baseline, and reported more coexisting emotional and behavioral problems. Both depression and coexisting problems were related to impairment. There was a lasting impact of depressive symptoms on most measures of peer, family, and school functioning 6 months later, but controlling for coexisting baseline emotional and behavioral problems attenuated this relationship for some measures.

CONCLUSION: Improvements in teen depression might have benefits that extend beyond clinical symptoms, improving peer, family, and school functioning over time.

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