Infectious Disease

Nearly 1 in 10 Americans reports having depressive episode

September 20, 2022

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In 2020, a total of 9.2% of Americans aged 12 years and older reported experiencing a major depressive episode in the year prior, researchers reported in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Renee D Goodwin, PhD, MPHprofessor of epidemiology at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, and colleagues used data from the 2015-2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health to quantify the 2020 pandemic’s impact on depression in the United States.

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Goodwin and colleagues used the prevalence of past-year depression and help seeking for depression to estimate rates from 2015 to 2019. Estimates were calculated for rates in 2020 and were compared with past years.

Of the 9.2% of people who reported experiencing a major depressive episode in 2020, depression was most common among those aged 18 to 25 years (17.2%), followed by those aged 12 to 17 years (16.9%).

“Our study updates the depression prevalence estimates for the US 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 US even before the onset of the pandemic,” Goodwin said in a release from Columbia. “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.”

According to Goodwin, most adolescents who reported having depression from 2015 to 2020 neither told nor spoke with a health care professional about depression symptoms.

“The elevated level and concentration of untreated depression among adolescents and young adults are especially problematic because untreated depression early in life is predictive of an increased risk of subsequent additional mental health problems,” Goodwin said. “The short- and long-term consequences of the pandemic on depression are not yet clear, but these estimates are a requisite starting point for quantifying the mental health impact of the pandemic.”

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