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02-17 New study finds adolescent girls increasingly depressed

New study finds adolescent girls increasingly depressed

The teen years usually tend to be tumultuous for various reasons, including biological and social ones. Issues like new friends, new schools and the eternal struggle to fit in can contribute to teen moodiness. However, it is important to remember teen moodiness isn’t always what it looks like. In such a situation, there is a high probability for the teen to suffer from depression.

Though its symptoms might seem like ordinary teen behavior, major depressive disorder (MDD) is a serious illness that can severely impact a teen’s life. And lately, the problem seems to be increasing among teen girls, as revealed by a recent study from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

A growing population

As part of the study, the researchers examined government data drawn from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health. The researchers looked at interviews conducted with over 175,000 adolescents aged between 12 and 17.

In 2005, nearly 9 percent adolescents in the study reported having major depressive episodes, and the figure climbed to 11.3 percent in 2014. Between 2005 and 2011, the percentage of teens with depression remained relatively stable, but the number grew during 2012-2014.

The study showed that the depression rate jumped noticeably between 2005 and 2014 and the increase was most noticeable among the girls. In 2005, the data showed 13 percent girls in the study reported depressive episodes; in 2014 that percentage increased to over 17 percent.

The researchers aren’t clear on what’s fueling the depression rate among teen girls. Social media might be playing a role; data from Pew Research showed girls are much more likely to make use of social media sites such as Instagram and Snapchat compared to boys. A recent study by the University of Pittsburgh found feelings of depression are associated with the use of social media in younger people as well.

The Johns Hopkins study is not the first study to reveal girls are often more susceptible to depression. In 2014, a study published in the journal Clinical Psychological Science found girls were often exposed to a larger amount of stressors that make girls more likely to brood over them.

Unlike a bad mood, depression stays around. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) says depression symptoms last more than two weeks and interfere with school, family and regular activities. Some of the symptoms include:

  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Changes in eating habits, sleeping habits or grades
  • Avoiding school
  • Withdrawing from friends

The need for treatment

Perhaps more unsettling, the data showed that in spite of the growing number of major depression cases among teen girls, there has been no corresponding rise in depression treatment. “This shows us there are a growing number of untreated adolescents with depression and that we are making few inroads in getting mental health care to this population,” said lead author Dr. Ramin Mojtabai in a Johns Hopkins press release. “It is imperative that we find was to reach these teenagers and help them manage their depression.”

The ADAA says depression is treatable, though the Child Mind Institute warns 60 percent children diagnosed with depression never get treatment. A structured environment during treatment of mental health issues can benefit teens in the recovery process.

Sovereign Health’s residential treatment center for adolescents at Rancho San Diego provides effective and compassionate care for children aged between 12 and 17. The pleasant environment at our facility can help our youngest clients move past their problems into a healthier life. For more information, contact our 24/7 helpline.

About the author

Brian Moore is a staff writer and graphic designer for Sovereign Health. A 20-year veteran of the newspaper industry, he writes articles and creates graphics across Sovereign’s portfolio of marketing and content products. Brian enjoys music, bicycling and playing the tuba, which he’s done with varying degrees of success for over 25 years. For more information and other inquiries about this media, contact the author and designer at

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