Depression affects nearly 10% of Americans, study says

Major depression is prevalent among nearly 1 in 10 Americans and almost 1 in 5 adolescents and young adults, according to a Sept. 19 analysis from the American Journal of Preventative Medicine.

There are widespread increases in depression without commensurate increases in treatment, according to the 2015 to 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, which represented individuals aged 12 and older. The 12-month rate for 2020 showed depression was prevalent among nearly 1 in 10 Americans and almost 1 in 5 adolescents and young adults.

Data indicate during that time period, instances of depression reached 9.2 percent of Americans aged 12 and older. The depression rate stood at 17.2 percent in 2020 for teens and young adults, according to the study. Additionally, 16.9 percent of 12 to 17-year-olds experienced a major depressive episode within the past year. 

Depression increased rapidly among adolescents and young adults and increased among nearly all sex, racial/ethnic, income, and education groups. Depression prevalence did not change among adults aged 35 years and older, and the prevalence of seeking help remained consistently low across the study period.

Renee Goodwin, PhD, a professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at the City University of New York, told U.S. News & World Report that depression in the U.S. has reached epidemic levels. 

"Depression is a public health problem, analogous to the flu, that needs to be addressed with public health strategies," Dr. Goodwin said. However, she underscored the potential dangers associated with depression in young adults. 

"Depression is far more lethal than the flu for young persons, yet there are no universal annual screenings, and gatekeepers like teachers, parents, pediatricians, clergy and coaches have little training so they can recognize depression among young persons," said Dr. Goodwin. 

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