Scientists Discover Biomarker to Spot Warning Signals of Depression in Teen Boys

DepressionResearchers are claiming that they have found the first biomarker to spot warning signals in teenage boys that could later develop into major depression. A new study has helped scientists develop a saliva test for teenage boys wherein scientists can identify the chances of major depression in later life with the help of a biomarker, i.e. combination of levels of the stress hormone cortisol and mild depression symptoms.

The researchers have said that teenagers with high levels of the stress hormone cortisol along with mild depression symptoms are 14 times more likely to suffer clinical depression later in life compared to those with low or normal cortisol levels.

The test was found to be most effective in boys than girls. Figures suggest that one in six persons becomes the victim of clinical depression at some point in their lives. Besides, most mental health disorders begin before reaching the 24-year mark. Currently, no biological test is available to diagnose depression at an early stage.

"This is the emergence of a new way of looking at mental illness. You don't have to rely simply on what the patient tells you, but what you can measure inside the patient", said Joe Herbert of the University of Cambridge and one of the study authors at a news conference on Monday.

Herbert and colleagues at the University of Cambridge conducted the study, which involved more than 1,800 teenagers aged 12 to 19. They examined levels of cortisol in them through saliva tests.  They also tracked diagnoses of mental health disorders in them for up to three years later and collected teens' own reports of depressions symptoms.

They finally reached at the conclusion that the boys with high cortisol levels coupled with mild depression symptoms were 14 times more likely to suffer clinical depression later in life than teens with normal levels.