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Early Puberty Tends to Increase Risk of Depression Among Girls, More Than Boys

With the average age of puberty among girls coming down to early teens, a new study suggests kids who enter this stage early than their peers face depression, isolation and loneliness, requiring counselling from the parent or public health assistants.

Though depression affects all sexes and age groups, it shows up highly among girls than boys, the researchers said in their paper published in the journal of Development and Psychopathology.

“It is often believed that going through puberty earlier than peers only contributes to depression in girls,” said lead author Karen Rudolph from University of Illinois. “We found that early maturation can also be a risk for boys as they progress through adolescence, but the timing is different than in girls,” Rudolph said.

It is not merely entering early phase of puberty among girls ahead of their peers but the associated problems like anxiety, poor self-image and frequent conflict with ohter family members during the phase prompt the psychological worries, including depression, said the research.

For the study, the researchers measured pubertal timing and tracked levels of depression among 160 girls for a period of four years and came to this conclusion.

“Although early maturation seemed to protect boys from the challenges of puberty initially, boys experienced an emerging cascade of personal and contextual risks as they move through adolescence,” Rudolph said.

Compared to girls, boys were seen protected from the problems of facing puberty during their initial stages by mixing and being open about it with their peers than girls who tend to confine it to themselves and suffer anxiety and depression, according to the study.

Though the research findings are not alarmingly different from the previous studies of similar trends, for the first time it confirmed that early puberty increases risk for depression in both sexes over time and more among girls than boys.

Other research scientists have linked early obesity with an earlier onset of puberty in girls, which leads to breast development before nine years and menarche before twelve years. It is also said that early puberty in girls can be a harbinger of later health problems.

The average level of daily physical activity has also been shown to affect timing of puberty, especially in girls. A high level of exercise, whether for athletic or body image purposes, or for daily subsistence, reduces energy calories available for reproduction and slows puberty due to a lower body fat mass and cholesterol.

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