What Increases the Risk Factors of Depression?

Kristin Hall

Reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP

Written by Geoffrey C. Whittaker

Published 09/17/2022

Updated 09/18/2022

Depression risks: one of the biggest worries for people who are trying to avoid getting one of several life-changing mental disorders. If you’ve made it here by Googling risk factors of depression in your spare time, you likely already know how significant of a mood disorder depression is. 

What you might not know is that depression can come from many sources, and your chance of getting depressed can be affected by a wide range of mental, social and environmental factors. 

Whether you’re currently depressed, worried you might eventually become depressed or are currently supporting a depressed loved one, this information may provide critical value to treating depression or reducing its severity now and for years to come. 

Of course, we do have to manage expectations. After all, at the end of the day, there is no “cure”  for depression, and it’s arguably impossible to prevent it with 100 percent certainty. 

That’s why knowing all the risks and dangers of depression is all the more important to your mental health. 

We can help you reduce the risks of depression in your life with some great tips, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves. In order to reduce your risk of clinical depression or major depression, you need to know the risk factors that you’ll want to decrease. 

So, let’s jump into the list of risk factors of depression and some of the symptoms of depression.

So what, exactly, are risk factors for depression? Well, the answer might surprise you, because there are a lot of them. 

It would be easy to say there are just a few broad categories, but the truth is that your risk of depression and the risk factors for depression aren’t going to be simple, and you may have more than one that could weigh in on your mental health. 

Think of them like really awful toppings for the sundae that is your brain. It’s still a depression sundae, but it may have nuts, sprinkles… you get the picture.

These risk toppings aren’t guaranteed either, and that’s important to understand. 

Let’s say, hypothetically, that your mother and father both had severe depression and experienced depressive symptoms daily. 

In fact, let’s say every generation of your family for a hundred years has been majorly depressed with debilitating depressive symptoms. 

Does that mean you’ll be majorly depressed, too? No, it doesn’t.

What it means, however, is that your genetic risk of depression may be significantly higher than that of other people — and that it may be a reason to start taking care of your mental health early.

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So, what constitutes a risk factor, or something that may increase your risk for depression? Well, it’s anything that has been proven to have an association with a higher chance of depression or major depression. 

Unfortunately, many of those things aren’t avoidable. Past traumas, early childhood emotional issues, genetics (a family history of depression) and biology are all things we can’t go back and fix.

You also can’t change your family history of depression, which has been shown in studies to be a key factor for estimating risk of depression. 

One of the things you could control (but often won’t), is major life changes and stressful life events. 

Stressful events aren’t something you can avoid. We’re not talking about things like the death of a family member or a major car accident, nor are we talking about major illness or a diagnosis of major illness — medical conditions and chronic illness can increase your depression risk, but you can’t control that. 

We’re talking about big moves, career changes and shifts in social support systems. Moving away from friends and family, starting a stressful new job or even having a terrible boss in your current job can all be contributing factors to your overall risk of depression.

Then there are the environmental factors and lifestyle factors that might play a role in depression. 

Some evidence suggests that things like caffeine intake, diet, exercise, sleep and other lifestyle factors can increase your risk of depression, and while those risk factors shouldn’t necessarily be at the top of the priority list for your depression concerns, they should generally be priorities for your overall health on a daily basis.

So, you’re not going to rewrite your genetic code and you can’t undo what your parents did wrong in your childhood. Unfortunately, time machines and genetic engineering aren’t available in the convenient way science fiction portrays.

That said, there are a lot of science nonfiction ways to deal with depression and the symptoms of depression, and even potentially prevent your high risk of depression from becoming a reality of depression. 

These things are called protective factors, and they can help you preserve your quality of life, reduce depressed mood and stave off a diagnosis of depression.

As you might suspect, things like better lifestyle choices can reduce risks of depression — if you’re drinking to excess, using illicit drugs, having trouble sleeping or failing to exercise and eat right, making changes to those behaviors can remove the increased risk of depression caused by doing those things wrong.

If your job situation has become a source of stress, or if a job or other obligation has caused you to move away from friends and family, it may be important for your mental health to re-strengthen your social support and relationships, as isolation can increase your risk of depression.

Finally, there’s the go-to solution for depression before or after it hits: professional help. 

Medication, therapy and other treatments provided under the supervision and guidance of a mental health professional or health care provider can be great not just for undoing the damage done by depression, but also for preventing depression from doing further damage at all.

All of this, in the end, is a reason to talk to a therapist if your risks have become a reality.

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Depression risk factors are of course hypothetical at the end of the day. 

The risk of a lightning strike is irrelevant until it starts thundering. Of course, you may have already heard the roar in the distance. 

If you’re in your own storm and lighting strikes are more important than they used to be, it may be time to talk to someone who can help you manage your risk (or deal with the problem you were at risk of). 

Our online therapy platform is a great, convenient resource for talking to a healthcare professional quickly and conveniently, which could be a great way to decrease your risk of not seeking therapy. 

Mental disorders can all benefit from treatment. From anxiety disorder, to bipolar disorder, to seasonal affective disorder or any of the other types of depression or mental disorders on the spectrum, it can all get better if you seek help.

Whether you get it with us or elsewhere, don’t let the risk of a depressive disorder run your life. Take charge of your mental health today. Check out our online mental health resources for more information.

2 Sources

Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references.

  1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Depression. National Institute of Mental Health. Retrieved August 2, 2022, from
  2. Begdache L, Sadeghzadeh S, Derose G, Abrams C. Diet, Exercise, Lifestyle, and Mental Distress among Young and Mature Men and Women: A Repeated Cross-Sectional Study. Nutrients. 2020 Dec 23;13(1):24. doi: 10.3390/nu13010024. PMID: 33374693; PMCID: PMC7822407.

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Learn more about our editorial standards here.

Kristin Hall, FNP

Kristin Hall is a board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner with decades of experience in clinical practice and leadership. 

She has an extensive background in Family Medicine as both a front-line healthcare provider and clinical leader through her work as a primary care provider, retail health clinician and as Principal Investigator with the NIH

Certified through the American Nurses Credentialing Center, she brings her expertise in Family Medicine into your home by helping people improve their health and actively participate in their own healthcare. 

Kristin is a St. Louis native and earned her master’s degree in Nursing from St. Louis University, and is also a member of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners. You can find Kristin on LinkedIn for more information.

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