Childhood maltreatment and characteristics of adult depression: meta-analysis

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Childhood maltreatment has been discussed as a risk factor for the development and maintenance of depression.


To examine the relationship between childhood maltreatment and adult depression with regard to depression incidence, severity, age at onset, course of illness and treatment response.


We conducted meta-analyses of original articles reporting an association between childhood maltreatment and depression outcomes in adult populations.


In total, 184 studies met inclusion criteria. Nearly half of patients with depression reported a history of childhood maltreatment. Maltreated individuals were 2.66 (95% CI 2.38–2.98) to 3.73 (95% CI 2.88–4.83) times more likely to develop depression in adulthood, had an earlier depression onset and were twice as likely to develop chronic or treatment-resistant depression. Depression severity was most prominently linked to childhood emotional maltreatment.


Childhood maltreatment, especially emotional abuse and neglect, represents a risk factor for severe, early-onset, treatment-resistant depression with a chronic course.

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