It is well established that girls who mature earlier than their peers face an increased risk of developing depression and antisocial behaviors during adolescence. A new study in the January 2018 issue of Pediatrics, “Age at Menarche, Depression, and Antisocial Behavior in Adulthood,” shows that these problems persist into early adulthood, far longer than documented in any previous research.
The study followed 7,802 women over a fourteen-year span, and tracked their experiences with depression and antisocial behaviors (such as stealing, breaking and entering, and selling drugs). Compared to later maturing peers, girls who started their periods early were more likely to experience symptoms of depression and antisocial behaviors not just during adolescence, but also as young adults (roughly age 28). The magnitude of the early puberty effect was similar in adolescence and adulthood, suggesting that adolescent distress did not wane even after girls aged into adulthood.
Researchers conclude that pediatricians and adolescent health care providers should be aware of the increased mental health risks associated with earlier puberty and be sensitive to the duration of its effects.