Origins of depression: A biopsychosocial approach

children medical examination of the population Adolescence

prof. dr. A.J. Oldehinkel

Type of project:
Pilot project (year 2 or 3), Stage Wetenschap / Researchproject of MD/PhD programme

Nature of the research:
Met name fundamenteel, toegepaste vraagstellingen zijn mogelijk

Fields of study:
epidemiology psychiatry

Background / introduction
Depression is one of the most prevalent psychiatric disorders, and greatly reduces quality of life and social functioning. Depressive disorders often have their first onset in adolescence. It is well-known that they are caused by an interplay of biological, psychological, and social factors, but a lot remains to be learnt about how these factors act together and whether and when they cause transient or more persistent depressive symptoms.
Research question / problem definition
Overall, the goal of the ‘Origins of adolescent depression’ project is to unravel existing puzzles with regard to the onset and course of adolescent depression. Talented students are welcome to participate in this project by investigating the role of specific biological, psychological, and/or social risk factors, based on their knowledge, interests, and skills. Students who make use of the TRAILS database may be required to devote part of their time to activities that help to build and maintain the database, such as data collection and data processing.
The ongoing large longitudinal cohort study TRAILS ( offers excellent opportunities to study the onset and course of depression in adolescence. In TRAILS, over 2000 adolescents have been followed during the entire period between childhood and adulthood. To date, four assessment waves have been completed, the first at about age 11 and the fourth at age 18/19. The TRAILS database is exceptionally rich and includes information about, among others things, genetic risk (DNA), several biomarkers, functioning and reactivity of physiological stress systems, physical health & fitness, life style factors, personality, and lifetime exposure to stressful experiences. Together, these variables offer unique opportunities to study developmental psychopathology.

The project is embedded in the Interdisciplinary Center for Psychiatric Epidemiology (ICPE,, which aims to study factors related to the course and outcome of common mental health problems, not only at the level of observable behaviors, but also at the level of underlying physiological and neuropsychological mechanisms. It is a highly active research group which offers an inspiring research environment for undergraduate and PhD students, with frequent research meetings where ideas and results are discussed in an open and constructive way.
Huisman M, Oldehinkel AJ, De Winter AF, Minderaa RB, De Bildt A, Huizink AC, Verhulst FC, Ormel J. Cohort profile: The Dutch “TRacking Adolescents’ Individual Lives’ Survey”; TRAILS. Int J Epidemiol 2008; 37: 1227-35.

Oldehinkel AJ, Bouma EMC. Sensitivity to the depressogenic effect of stress and HPA-axis reactivity in adolescence: A review of gender differences. Neurosc Biobehav Rev [Epub ahead of print, doi: 10.1016/j.neurobiorev.2010.10.013].

Oldehinkel AJ, Verhulst FC, Ormel J. Low heart rate: A marker of stress resilience. The TRAILS study. Biol Psychiatry 2008; 63:1141-6.
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Laatst gewijzigd: 23 februari 2012