1 in 5 teens have symptoms of depression, what we know

  • Researchers found that in 2020 the rate of depression was around 9% for Americans 12 and older.
  • However, it rose to 17% when they looked at teenagers and young adults.
  • Depressive symptoms were most common among people aged 18 to 25, with the number of people seeking help still low.

New research reveals that nearly 10% of Americans live with depression, with rates about twice as high as in teens and young adults.

“Our study updates depression prevalence estimates for the U.S. population through 2020 and confirms the growing increase in depression from 2015 to 2019,” said study lead author Renee D. Goodwin, PhD, adjunct professor in the Department of Epidemiology at Columbia Mailman School. public health in a press release.

The study was published this week in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine.

She noted that this reflected an escalating public health crisis in the United States even before the pandemic began.

The researchers used data from the 2015-2020 National Survey of Drug Use and Health, a nationally representative study of American individuals aged 12 and older.

They found that in 2020, the past-12-month rate of depression was about 9% for Americans in this age group; however, it rose to 17% when they looked at teenagers and young adults.

“Major depression is a clinical disorder, so it is characterized by persistent sad or depressed mood, loss of interest in activities,” Dr. Shawna Newman, a psychiatrist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, told Healthline.

While the prevalence of depression was unchanged among adults aged 35 and older, the condition was more common among people aged 18 to 25, with the number of people seeking help remaining 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 said in a statement.

The researchers also found that:

  • Rates of depression among non-Hispanic white individuals exceeded all other racial/ethnic groups.
  • Depression was higher in women than in men, and in adults who were not currently or previously married.
  • Although depression increased for all income groups, the greatest increase was seen among those with the lowest household income.

“The key here to meet the criteria, they must have a consistently low depressed mood,” Newman explained.

Newman said while the official criteria is two weeks, it’s more typically a month or two.

“Two weeks, a month or maybe even two months and that makes things clearer,” she explained. “So it’s persistent. It’s different from distress or being upset – often people use that kind of language, everyone does, ‘I feel down today.’

Dr. Noshene Ranjbar, associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Arizona College of Medicine-Tucson, said potential causes for the increased rates of depression include genetic factors, substance use (such as alcohol) and environmental or social factors.

“These include loneliness, loss of loved ones, job, finances or anything else particularly stressful, having an illness, being affected by racism or prejudice against their gender, sexuality, beliefs, culture or way of life,” she said. said.

According to Ranjbar, it can also include any other change in life that disrupts our ability to cope.

“Negative childhood experiences and trauma can also increase a person’s risk of developing depression later in life,” she added.

Stephanie G. Thompson, LCSW, director of San Diego adolescent clinical operations for Lightfully Behavioral Health, said the pandemic has played a significant role in stressing mental health.

“Rates [of depressive symptoms] triple when the COVID pandemic first hit, growing from 8.5% of the population to 27.8% in 2020, 32.8% in 2021, and continues to rise today,” Thompson said

She pointed out that the pandemic has caused a global crisis in all aspects of life for many reasons, including isolation and anxiety fueled by the unknown of the pandemic’s trajectory and ultimate outcome.

“While aging adults have historically suffered from depression at higher rates than most, adolescents are more susceptible to major depressive disorder, ‘severe’ type, these days,” Thompson said.

Newman said one of the reasons is that their social and developmental demands are greater.

“The developmental imperative in this age group is so focused on socialization and emotional growth that isolation, limitation, estrangement, hiding – it’s profoundly difficult for adolescents,” he said. she declared. “Because they biologically need facial expression, body language; they are very social because humans are very social animals – but teenagers want them, they need them.

She pointed out that the loss of peer interaction, reduced contact with supports like teachers, group activities, even just walking down the hallway of a normal high school suddenly disappeared.

“It is a disaster!” says Newman. “You think the school is almost the main place where we get assessment and treatment for psychological services, and often psychiatric services as well.

Newman thinks that perhaps 80% of children who rely on school services to meet their needs don’t get them.

“They are at home with their thoughts and a computer,” she says.

“But the experiences that are supposed to be three dimensional in nature, or four dimensional if you’re counting time, where you’re in a space that has a purpose and a purpose, and you have groupthink and the teacher and a whole interaction , it’s vital and it was gone in a second,” Newman continued.

According to Thompson, teenagers face serious challenges as they grow into adulthood, including inflation and student debt.

“However, teens face a very different dilemma due to rising student debt and the cost of living,” she said. “These alone are creating their own national crisis and teenagers are extremely nervous about making decisions and taking on responsibilities that they are no longer sure they can handle.”

She added that they are also deciding to avoid getting involved due to rising divorce rates, longer lifespans and frequent changes in interests in relationship types.

“The unknown of the future has created an overwhelming sense of anxiety surrounding decision-making in all aspects of their lives,” she continued.

Thompson thinks it’s critical to focus on ongoing efforts to normalize the receipt of mental health services, talk about them, and create more easily accessible mental health resources.

She said school was one of the best places to find easily accessible resources.

“While some public school districts have guidance counselors or a social worker on staff, this is not enough to address the prevalence and severity of adolescent mental health needs today,” a- she continued.

Offering courses in “brain health,” personal wellness, and offering therapeutic services in public schools where teens can easily see a licensed therapist could have a “huge” impact on the number of teens, Thompson says. able to access care.

“Teen-accessible therapy will reduce the need to take time off work to bring teens to as many care appointments,” she said. “And having more professionally trained mental health professionals in schools and better-prepared caregivers will give adults more opportunities to catch the signs and symptoms of adolescent depression earlier.”

A recent study finds that rates of depressive symptoms have risen dramatically, with teens and young adults particularly affected.

Experts say that while many factors could be responsible, the COVID-19 pandemic likely played a big role in the rise.

They also say more mental health resources are needed, especially in school settings, to make treatment accessible to those who need it.

About Keith Johnson

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