The prevalence of depression is on the rise, according to a study carried out by the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy (CUNY SPH), Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, and the CUNY Institute for Implementation Science in Population Health. The study examined trends in major depression among persons aged 12 and over, over the decade spanning 2005 to 2015. The findings were published in the journal Psychological Medicine.
“Depression appears to be increasing among Americans overall, and especially among youth,” explains Dr. Renee Goodwin, who is a faculty member at both CUNY SPH and Columbia University. “Because depression impacts a significant percentage of the U.S. population and has serious individual and societal consequences, it is important to understand whether and how the prevalence of depression has changed over time so that trends can inform public health and outreach efforts.”
The findings showed that the prevalence of depression increased significantly in the United States from 2005 to 2015, with youth showing the most rapid rate of increase as compared to older groups.
Data for the study was drawn from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, an annual cross-sectional study comprised of 607, 520 respondents ages 12 and over. The researchers examined past-year depression prevalence annually among respondents over the years of the analysis. They used logistic regression to test time trends in depression prevalence stratified by survey year. Data were re-analyzed stratified by age, gender, race/ethnicity, income, and education.
The upward trend in depression prevalence was present both before and after controlling for demographics. Increases in depression were significant for the youngest and oldest age groups, men and women, White persons, the lowest and highest income groups, and those with the highest level of education. The rate of increase in depression was significantly more rapid among youth relative to all older age groups.
“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,” noted Dr. Goodwin. “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. 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.”
The research team suggest the need for further research into understanding the macro level, micro level, and individual factors that are contributing to the increase in depression, including factors specific to demographic subgroups, to help direct public health prevention and intervention efforts.
“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,” explains Dr. Goodwin.