Adolescent Depression Can Lower Later-Life Earning Power By 20 Percent

It's never too early to get help for depression, especially since being depressed during your teen years may end up hurting you professionally later on.

The Atlantic points to a recent study, published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, that finds a tentative link between adolescent depression and diminished earning power later in life, as well as a higher likelihood of unemployment.

Teens who show symptoms of depression could be 5 percent less likely to be employed when they're older, according to the researchers. Once they're adults, if they do have a job, they could earn as much as 20 percent less than they would if they hadn't experienced depression during their formative years.

The findings are hardly conclusive, as the study authors themselves stress. But they line up with other research on the long-term effects for young people of physical and emotional distress.

James Smith, a researcher at the nonprofit RAND Corporation, has co-authored two such studies in the past two years. One shows that psychological problems in childhood, like depression or substance abuse, can lead to a 20 percent reduction in family income by adulthood, and a total of about $300,000 of lost income over the course of a lifetime. The other shows that kids who experience mental problems grow up to earn family incomes that are 25 percent lower than their peers' at age 50.

Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published research earlier this year showing that when children suffer physical, psychological or sexual abuse, it can end up costing them more than $200,000 over the course of a lifetime, due to medical expenses, decreased productivity and other financial losses.

It's been estimated that between 3 and 5 percent of children and adolescents suffer from major depression.