Study provides update on prevalence of depression among US population

Study provides update on prevalence of depression among US population

Increase in depression without proportional increase in treatment is widespread, reports a study conducted at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health and City University of New York. In 2020, depression in the past 12 months was common in nearly 1 in 10 Americans and nearly 1 in 5 adolescents and young adults. Embargoed results will be published online in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Data are from the 2015-2020 National Survey of Drug Use and Health, a nationally representative study of American individuals ages 12 and older. Major depression is the most common mental disorder in the United States and the strongest risk factor for suicidal behavior. Previous results show an increase in depression in the US population from 6.6% in 2005 to 7.3% in 2015.

Our study updates depression prevalence estimates for the US population through 2020 and confirms the growing increase in depression from 2015 to 2019, reflecting an escalating public health crisis in the US before even the start of the pandemic. The net effect of these trends suggests an accelerating public health crisis and that parity and public service announcement efforts have not achieved equity in the treatment of depression.”

Renee D. Goodwin, PhD, assistant professor in the department of epidemiology at the Columbia Mailman School of Public Health and professor of epidemiology at the City University of New York in New York, and senior author

In 2020, 9% of Americans age 12 or older experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. Depression was more common among young adults aged 18-25 at just over 17%, and adolescents aged 12-17 (16.9%). Depression rose fastest among adolescents and young adults and rose among nearly all gender, race/ethnicity, income, and education groups. However, the prevalence of depression did not change among adults aged 35 and older. Overall, the prevalence of help-seeking remained consistently low.

“Our results showed that most adolescents with depression neither spoke to a healthcare professional about symptoms of depression nor received pharmacological treatment from 2015 to 2020,” Goodwin noted.

The prevalence of depression among non-Hispanic white individuals exceeded that of all other racial/ethnic groups. Depression was also consistently higher in women than in men and in adults who were not currently or previously unmarried. Although there was an increase in depression from 2015 to 2019 among people in every income group, the highest prevalence of depression was evident among people with the lowest household income.

“The high level and concentration of untreated depression in adolescents and young adults is particularly problematic because untreated depression early in life is predictive of increased risk for additional mental health problems later,” Goodwin said. . “The short- and long-term consequences of the pandemic on depression are not yet clear, but these estimates are a necessary starting point for quantifying the impact of the pandemic on mental health. that promote help-seeking, early intervention, prevention and education about depression are urgently needed.”


Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health

Journal reference:

Goodwin, Dt.P., et al. (2022) Trends in the prevalence of depression in the United States from 2015 to 2020: The widening treatment gap. American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

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