Depression on the rise in America, particularly among children, study finds

NEW YORK — Depression rates, particularly among young Americans, have increased significantly over the past decade, a new study finds.

Researchers at Columbia University and the City University of New York (CUNY) examined data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, an annually-administered survey conducted among Americans aged 12 or older. More than 607,000 people participated in the survey.

Depressed girl
(Photo by Xavier Sotomayor on Unsplash)

Overall, their analysis found that from 2005 to 2015, the percentage of the general population who could be diagnosed with clinical depression rose from 6.6 percent to 7.3 percent. Adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17, however, saw the most rapid rise, a full four-percentage point increase — from 8.7 percent to 12.7 percent — over the same time period.

In addition to America’s youth, whites, highly-educated individuals, the elderly, and those in either high- or low-income brackets saw the most dramatic jumps.

“Depression is most common among those with least access to any health care, including mental health professionals. This includes young people and those with lower levels of income and education,” explains Dr. Renee Goodwin, the study’s lead author in a Columbia news release.

“Despite this trend, recent data suggest that treatment for depression has not increased, and a growing number of Americans, especially socioeconomically vulnerable individuals and young persons, are suffering from untreated depression,” she adds. “Depression that goes untreated is the strongest risk factor for suicide behavior and recent studies show that suicide attempts have increased in recent years, especially among young women.”

This inquiry is the first in over a decade to look at how a number of variables, such as gender, income, and education, play a role in the nation’s incidence of depression.

Despite the condition being among the more easily-treatable mental disorders, it frequently goes undiagnosed, according to Goodwin.

Ultimately, “identifying subgroups that are experiencing significant increases in depression can help guide the allocation of resources toward avoiding or reducing the individual and societal costs associated with depression,” she concludes.

The study’s findings were published in the journal Psychological Medicine.


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