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Study warns of ‘accelerating public health crisis’ in US

The data came from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

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Depression was consistently higher among women compared to men, and among adults who were not currently or previously married.
(ESB Professional via Shutterstock)

By Stephen Beech via SWNS

One in 11 people in the USA have depression, with cases at record levels, according to a new study.

Researchers stated that teenagers and young adults are particularly vulnerable

The situation was described as an "accelerating public health crisis" and warned that cases of depression without corresponding increases in treatment are widespread.

The study, conducted by researchers at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health and City University of New York, found that in 2020 nearly one in 10 Americans (nine percent) said they'd suffered depression in the previous 12 months.

The figure rose to almost one in five among adolescents and young adults.

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(ESB Professional via Shutterstcok)

The data came from the 2015-2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, a nationally representative study of Americans aged 12 and older.

Major depression is the most common mental disorder in the United States and is the strongest risk factor for suicidal behavior.

Previous research showed an increase in depression in the U.S. population from 6.6 percent in 2005 to 7.3 percent in 2015.

Study lead author Professor Renee Goodwin said: “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 U.S. even before the onset of the pandemic.

“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.”

The findings, published online by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, showed that in 2020 nine percent of Americans aged 12 or older experienced a major depressive episode in the previous 12 months.

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Depression was more common among young adults aged 18 to 25 years at slightly more than 17 percent, and those aged 12 to 17 (16.9 percent.)

Cases increased most rapidly among teens and young adults and rose among nearly all gender, racial, income, and education groups.

However, the prevalence of depression did not change among adults aged 35 and over.

Overall, the prevalence of help-seeking remained consistently low.

Prof Goodwin, of Columbia Mailman School of Public Health, said: “Our results showed most adolescents with depression neither told nor talked with a healthcare professional about depression symptoms nor received pharmacologic treatment from 2015 through 2020."

Depression was consistently higher among women compared to men, and among adults who were not currently or previously married.

While there was an increase in depression from 2015 to 2019 among those in each income group, the highest prevalence of depression was evident among those with the lowest household income.

Prof Goodwin added: “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.

“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.

"Expanding evidence-based, community-based, public-facing campaigns that promote help-seeking, early intervention, prevention, and education about depression are urgently needed.”

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