The younger a girl is when she begins her monthly period, the more likely she is to struggle with depression later in her teen years, according to a study.
British scientists studied a group of girls ages 10, 13 and 14 years old and examined the relationship between the early onset of menstruation and depressive symptoms, according to a recent study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry.
Researchers found that girls who started their periods before the age of 11.5 were the most depressed by ages 13 and 14. Girls who began to menstruate at 13.5 years of age were the least likely to suffer the same symptoms.
Why does this happen?
"Early maturing girls may feel isolated, and faced with demands which they are not emotionally prepared for," said lead researcher Dr. Carol Joinson of the School of Social and Community Medicine at Bristol University.
These changes can include hormonal fluctuations, conflicts with friends and parents and sudden attention from the opposite sex.
"Later maturation may be protective against psychological distress," said Joinson.
The study only examines depression in mid-adolescent girls as opposed to whether girls who menstruate early suffer from depression as adults.
If the link between early onset puberty and depression is a real one, additional counseling can help girls who are struggling with the sudden changes.
"If girls who reach puberty early are at greater risk of psychological problems in adolescence, it may be possible to help them with school- and family-based programs aimed at early intervention and prevention," said Joinson.