Trends in Depression Increase Among Young Adults, Adolescents
In 2020, the prevalence of depression among individuals in the United States was nearly 1 in 10, with 1 in 5 adolescents and young adults reporting a diagnosis of depression, according to a recent study.
As a result of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, early data suggests a worsening of trends in depression among individuals. The researchers aimed to estimate the pre-pandemic prevalence of depression in the U.S. to gain a better understanding of how the pandemic impacted mental health. They did this by using data from the 2015-2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, which was a nationally representative study of individuals aged 12 years and older in the United States. Additionally, the prevalence of past-year depression and help-seeking for depression were estimated from 2015 to 2019.
The researchers found that, in 2020, depression increased most rapidly among adolescents and young adults in nearly all sex, racial/ethnic, income, and education groups. Depression was most common among adults aged 18 - 25 years (17.2%, standard error [SE] = 0.78), followed by adolescents aged 12 – 17 years (16.9%, SE = 0.84). Overall, among individuals in the U.S. aged 12 years and greater, 9.2% (SE = 0.31) experienced a major depressive episode in the past year.
Further, among adults aged 35 years and older, the prevalence of depression was unchanged, and the prevalence of seeking help in the same population remained consistently low during the study.
“These U.S. national data reveal a clear increase in depression and, critically, in untreated depression,” the researchers concluded. “Depression is the strongest risk factor for suicide behavior, and these patterns demand immediate action, especially for adolescents and young adults, at both the clinical and public health levels.”
Goodwin RD, Dierker LC, Wu M, Galea S, Hoven CW, Weinberger AH. Trends in U.S. depression prevalence from 2105 to 2020: the widening treatment gap. Am J Prev Med. Published online September 19, 2022. doi:10.1016/j.amepre.2022.05.014