Depression is one of the most common mental illnesses among people in the United States, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. And new research finds that its prevalence is still rising, especially in younger populations.
Researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy looked at more than 600,000 responses to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, which is conducted every year with people 12 and older. Between the years 2005 and 2015, they found, depression rose from 6.6% to 7.3% and the most rapid growth was among people aged 12 to 17.
"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," Renee Goodwin, PhD, lead author on the study, said in a statement.
This study is the first to look at trends in depression across gender, income, and education level over the last decade. In addition to finding a sharp rise in depression among teenagers, the researchers saw that depression is most common in populations that have little access to healthcare — including mental health experts. Perhaps because of this fact, treatment for depression has not risen along with the rise in depression itself.
"A growing number of Americans, especially socioeconomically vulnerable individuals and young persons, are suffering from untreated depression," Goodwin said. "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."
According to the survey, depression increased most among both the youngest and oldest age groups, as well as white people, people in the lowest and highest income brackets, and people with higher levels of education.
Goodwin and her team hope that research like this helps mental health professionals to allocate resources to the populations who need them most.
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