A qualitative exploration of depression in emerging adulthood: disorder, development, and social context

Sachiko A. Kuwabara, Benjamin W. Van Voorhees, Jacqueline K Gollan, G. Caleb Alexander*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

81 Scopus citations


Objective: One in four emerging adults will experience a depressive episode between the ages of 18-25. We examined the lived experience of emerging adults with a focus on their treatment seeking, development and the social context of their illness. Method: In-depth interviews were conducted with 15 participants with major or minor depression. Interviews were recorded, transcribed verbatim and analyzed using established qualitative methods. Results: Emerging adults reported dynamic and complex interactions within and between thematic areas including identification as an individual with depression, interactions with the healthcare system, relationships with friends and family, and role transitions from childhood to adulthood. Depressed mood, concerns about self-identifying one's self as being depressed, the complexity of seeking care often without insurance or financial support, alienation from peers and family, and a sense of failure to achieve expected developmental milestones appeared to interact and exacerbate functional impairment. Conclusions: Further research is needed to better understand and intervene upon pathways that lead to poor outcomes such as delayed milestones among emerging adults with depression. Health care providers should be conscious of the unique vulnerabilities posed by depressive disorders in this age group.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)317-324
Number of pages8
JournalGeneral Hospital Psychiatry
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2007


  • Depression
  • Development
  • Emerging adulthood

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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