Well-Being Mental Health

Nearly 1 in 10 Americans suffer from depression, study says

“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 depression treatment.”
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Story at a glance


  • Researchers found that more than 9 percent of Americans 12 and older experienced a major depressive episode in 2020.

  • Depression, which is the most common mental disorder in the nation, was most prevalent among young adults ages 18 to 25 at more than 17 percent.

  • Less than 17 percent of adolescents ages 12 to 17 reported having depression, up from 12.7 percent 7 years ago.

A growing number of Americans are struggling with depression and most are not seeking treatment or are undertreated for the mental health disorder, according to a new study.

A study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found almost 1 in 10 Americans reported suffering from depression in 2020, with rates of the mental health disorder higher among adolescents and young adults. Researchers from Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health and City University of New York analyzed 2015-20 data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, which is a nationally representative poll of Americans aged 12 and older. 

Researchers found that in 2020 more than 9 percent of Americans 12 and older experienced a major depressive episode over the past year. The study’s authors note depression has increased over the past several years, rising from 6.6 percent in 2005 to 7.3 percent in 2015. 


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Depression, which is the most common mental disorder in the nation, was most prevalent among young adults ages 18 to 25 at more than 17 percent, an increase from 10.3 percent in 2015. Slightly under 17 percent of adolescents ages 12 to 17 reported having depression, up from 12.7 percent 7 years ago. According to the study, most adolescents with depression did not speak with a health care professional about their symptoms and did not receive treatment. 

Researchers note the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated rates of depression among Americans but say increases in depression were occurring long before the virus outbreak. 

“Our study updates the depression prevalence estimates for the U.S. population through the year 2020 and confirms escalating increases in depression from 2015 through 2019, reflecting a public health crisis that was intensifying in the U.S. even before the onset of the pandemic,” Renee D. Goodwin, the study’s lead author, said in a statement

“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 depression treatment,” Goodwin added. 

Depression increased the fastest among adolescents and young adults, including among all gender, racial, income and education groups. Prevalence of depression however did not change among adults aged 35 and over. 

Rates of depression were higher among non-Hispanic white individuals and were also more common among women and adults who were not married. While depression increased across all income levels, those with the lowest household income did have a higher rate of depression. 

Researchers stressed that increases in depression were “without commensurate increases in treatment” and called for a public health campaign to push evidence-based prevention and intervention.