STUDY OBJECTIVE: Psychiatric disorder often begins at adolescence. This study aimed to examine the associations between puberty and social circumstances and the adolescent rise in depression and anxiety. DESIGN: A two stage cluster sampling procedure was used to identify a representative group of Australian secondary school students in years 7 (age 12-13 years), 9 (14-15 years), and 11 (16-17 years) of 45 Victorian schools. The computerised clinical interview schedule (CIS) was used to evaluate psychiatric morbidity. MAIN RESULTS: A total of 2525 subjects completed the survey - an overall participation rate of 83%. Levels of depression and anxiety increased with the secondary school years and girls had significantly higher rates at each school year level. For boys, the clearest independent associations with depression and anxiety were rising school year level and high parental educational achievement. For girls menarchal status emerged as the strongest predictor. Associations with age and school year level, evident on univariate analysis, did not persist when the recency of menarche was taken into account. After addition of measures of perceived social stress to a multivariate model, a significant association between depression/anxiety and parental divorce disappeared but the association with menarche persisted. CONCLUSIONS: Menarche marks a transition in the risk of depression and anxiety in girls. The pattern of findings is consistent with a biological mediation of this association.
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