Depression appears to be an increasing problem among all Americans, but the increase has been conspicuously higher among adolescents and younger teens. A recent study, led by Renee D. Goodwin from the department of epidemiology at the Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health (MSPH), analyzed trends in depression prevalence among the population of the United States. Goodwin examined data pertaining to over 600,000 individuals aged 12 years and above who had participated in the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) between 2005 and 2015.
The findings, published in the journal Psychological Medicine in October 2017, showed that overall depression among Americans increased significantly from 6.6 percent in 2005 to 7.3 percent in 2015. However, depression increased at the fastest rate among adolescents aged 12 to 17 years, from 8.7 percent in 2005 to 12.7 percent in 2015, with a rise of 4 percent in a decade. The rate of increase of depression was also the greatest among white Americans, the youngest and oldest age groups, the lowest income and highest income groups, and individuals in the highest education groups.
“Depression is the most common among those with the least access to any health care, including mental health professionals,” said Goodwin. According to her, an increasing number of Americans, particularly younger people as well as those from socioeconomically vulnerable groups, were suffering from untreated depression. This is the first study to analyze depression trends based on gender, income and education, during the last decade.
Different factors affecting depression among teens and adults
Although many environmental and genetic risk factors may lead to depression, its prevalence among teens and adults is usually affected by different factors. According to the researchers, family economics may partly explain the increase in depression among teens. They also highlighted the likely involvement of risk factors like cyberbullying and problematic social media use, outcomes of using new technologies.
Stress is one of the main reasons for the increase in depression among adults. The researchers stated that majority of American adults reported an increase in their stress levels over time, commonly resulting from issues related to money and work. Low income, unemployment or loss of jobs, and other negative life events increased the risk for depression. The period of economic slump during the 2007-2008 financial crisis, which was included in the study’s time frame, led to an increase in mental health problems and suicides among adults. The ripple effect of such events usually impacts children and teens, as well.
Another study published in the journal Pediatrics in November 2016 also highlighted the increasing prevalence of major depressive episodes (MDEs) in adolescents (8.7 percent in 2005 to 11.3 percent in 2014) and young adults (8.8 percent to 9.6 percent during the same period). The increase was greater and statistically significant only in the age group of 12 to 20 years. Even after adjusting for substance use disorders (SUDs) and sociodemographic characteristics, the trends remained significant. The study also found that depression affected adolescent boys and girls differently.
Untreated depression strongest risk for suicidal behavior
Goodwin stated that untreated depression was the strongest risk factor for suicidal behavior, and recent studies showed that suicidal attempts had increased of late, especially among young women. Suicide among children, teens and young adults is a silent crisis which is gradually elevating to serious level. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had previously found that suicide was the second-leading cause of death among individuals aged between 10-24 years. Individual and societal costs associated with depression can be reduced or avoided by identifying subgroups with significant increases in the disorder. This will help in allocation of adequate resources towards treatment for individuals in these subgroups.
Depression often remains undiagnosed, but it is a treatable mental illness. Sovereign Health of Rancho San Diego’s mental health rehab for teens combines cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and group and individual therapies to provide holistic treatment for depression and other mental disorders. Our treatment programs are tailored to meet the patient’s individual needs. Call our 24/7 helpline or chat online with one of our representatives for further information on our residential mental health facilities for teens.