Depression Print or save as PDF

How is it defined?

Depression in children and adolescents is a serious problem with both short and long-term consequences. Depression is a common mental illness characterized by a depressed mood and a loss of interest or pleasure (Cassano & Fava, 2002). Depressive symptoms are linked to an increased risk of poor social relationships, substance abuse, suicide, and poor educational attainment (Fletcher, 2010). Given its association with unfavorable behaviours and poor academic outcomes, greater efforts are needed to prevent the development of depression in young people (Spence & Shortt, 2007).

The Learning Bar’s framework on social-emotional outcomes includes measures of social, institutional, and intellectual engagement. In addition, measures of emotional health include anxiety, depression, and self-esteem.

Why is it important?

  • The period from middle to late adolescence represents a critical time wherein students may be at greatest risk for depression (Hankin et al., 1998).

  • Higher levels of depression are linked to lower academic performance (Owens, Stevenson, Hadwin, & Norgate, 2012).

  • Depression is associated with an increased risk of dropout and a decreased likelihood of enrollment in post-secondary education (Fletcher, 2010).

How do we measure it?

Developed with the assistance of a child and adolescent psychiatrist, on the OurSCHOOL secondary school survey students respond to questions regarding the extent to which they experience feelings or display symptoms related to depression. The data are scaled on a 4-point scale. Students with a score above 2.25 are considered to be experiencing high levels of depression, while those with scores above 1.5 but below 2.25 are considered to have moderate levels of depression. The results are reported as ‘the percentage of students with high levels of depression’ and “the percentage of students with moderate levels of depression”.


Cassano, P., & Fava, M. (2002). Depression and public health. An overview. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 53(4), 849-857.

Fletcher, J. M. (2010). Adolescent depression and educational attainment: Results using sibling fixed effects. Health Economics, 19(7), 855-871.

Hankin, B. L., Abramson, L. Y., Moffitt, T. E., Silva, P. A., McGee, R., & Angell, K. E. (1998). Development of depression from preadolescence to young adulthood: Emerging gender differences in a 10-year longitudinal study. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 107(1), 128-140.

Owens, M., Stevenson, J., Hadwin, J. A., & Norgate, R. (2012). Anxiety and depression in academic performance: An exploration of the mediating factors of worry and working memory. School Psychology International, 33(4), 433-449.

Spence, S. H., & Shortt, A. L. (2007). Research Review: Can we justify the widespread dissemination of universal, school‐based interventions for the prevention of depression among children and adolescents? Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 48(6), 526-542.