Cases of depression in U.S. reach all-time highs, new survey reveals

WASHINGTON — The United States is in the midst of another “Great Depression” — literally. A new report from the Gallup Institute finds the lifetime rate of clinical depression has reached a brand-new high, with women and young adults among the most vulnerable. Cases among Black and Hispanic adults are also rising at twice the rate in comparison to clinical depression diagnoses among White adults.

Twenty-nine percent of adults living in the U.S. have been diagnosed with depression at some point in their life — a rate almost 10 percent higher than what was reported in 2015. Additionally, the number of Americans being treated for depression increased to 17.8 percent, according to the latest poll.

The survey results came from a Gallup Panel where 5,167 adults responded to questions such as “Has a doctor or nurse ever told you that you have depression?” and “Do you currently have or are you currently being treated for depression?”

Over one-third of women (36.7%) have been diagnosed with depression at some point in their life, compared to 20.4 percent of men. The rate of depression among women has nearly doubled the rate of men since 2017.

The greatest rise in depression rates came from people under the age of 44. Over one in three (34.3%) people between 18 and 29 were diagnosed with depression in 2023. Those between 30 and 44 had a 34.9-percent depression rate. The two groups with the highest rates of current depression or getting treatment for depression are women and young adults between 18 and 29.

Depression, mental health
(Credit: Polina Zimmerman from Pexels)

Another finding from the recent report is the differences in depression diagnoses by race. Black and Hispanic adults dealing with mental health struggles have surpassed White survey respondents. Before, White adults made up the highest number of depression cases.

Mental health is deteriorating worldwide

High rates of depression are not just a problem for the U.S. Worldwide, four in 10 adults 15 years and older experience significant depression or anxiety or have a loved one who has it, according to a 2021 report from Gallup. Prior surveys by the institute found that 22 percent of Northern American adults experienced depression or anxiety so extreme they had trouble completing daily activities for two weeks or more. The rate is similar to the 19 percent globally experiencing extreme depression in Western Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia.

While clinical depression was slowly rising in the U.S., one significant event that sent depression rates skyrocketing is the COVID-19 pandemic. Not only did the virus kill millions of people, but it also worsened the public’s mental health due to fears of infection, psychological exhaustion (especially among first responders), and disruptions in mental health services. The restrictive measures to limit viral spread such as quarantining and lockdown fueled feelings of social isolation and loneliness.

Daily rates of loneliness did go down after two years as society made efforts to return to normal. However, the study authors predict we’ll be seeing an increase in longer-term, chronic rates of depression.

Women have always had higher rates of depression than men. The gender gap widened since 2017 because of COVID, according to the poll. When everything shut down, women were more likely to lose their jobs or take a leave from work to care for children when schools shut down. Women also comprised 78 percent of healthcare workers in 2019, exposing them to more emotional and psychological scarring from the pandemic.

Young adults experienced increases in depression because of the pandemic as well. This age group was more likely to be single and report feelings of loneliness. In general, younger people need more social time to boost their mood than older adults, something the pandemic interfered with for years. Adults under 30 were more likely to have daily experiences of sadness, worry, and anger. Altogether, the survey finds women, young adults, and people of color were the workers most likely to lose their jobs because of the COVID pandemic.

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About the Author

Jocelyn Solis-Moreira

Jocelyn is a New York-based science journalist whose work has appeared in Discover Magazine, Health, and Live Science, among other publications. She holds a Master’s of Science in Psychology with a concentration in behavioral neuroscience and a Bachelor’s of Science in integrative neuroscience from Binghamton University. Jocelyn has reported on several medical and science topics ranging from coronavirus news to the latest findings in women’s health.

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