Depression among Americans is escalating and more education about treatment is vital, according to a recent study.
Nearly one in 10 people over the age of 12 — and one in five among those between the ages of 12 and 25 — were affected by depression in 2020, findings published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine revealed.
Although the pandemic sparked concern for people’s mental health, the study, conducted by Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and the City University of New York, confirmed depression was prevalent in Americans before COVID-19.
According to lead author Renee Goodwin, the study shows the number of people with depression increased from 2015 through 2019, adding that the results reflect an accelerating “public health crisis that was intensifying in the US even before the onset of the pandemic.”
Goodwin said the results make it evident public service announcement efforts had not achieved the desired result of people seeking treatment for depression.
“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,” Goodwin explained.
The increase of those with depression was found in younger people, with no jump in those over 35. However, 17% of adolescents reported depressive symptoms, up from 16% in 2015 and 13% in 2005.
Overall, 9% of Americans experienced a major depressive episode, a jump from 7.3% who reported feeling depressed in 2015.
The study found the symptoms increased the most in adolescents and young adults across all genders, ethnicities, incomes and education groups.
Overall, the percentage of those seeking help remained consistently low, with Goodwin noting the “level and concentration” of untreated depression in young people as “especially problematic.”
“Untreated depression early in life is predictive of an increased risk of subsequent additional mental health problems,” she explained. “Our results showed most adolescents with depression neither told or talked with a health care professional about depression symptoms nor received pharmacologic treatment from 2015 through 2020.”
Non-Hispanic white individuals reported higher numbers of depression than other race/ethnic groups, mainly with higher numbers reported by women and in adults who are not or haven’t been married.
The highest prevalence of depression was in households with low incomes, although all income groups experienced depression.
“Expanding evidence-based, community-based, public-facing campaigns that promote help-seeking, early intervention, prevention and education about depression are urgently needed,” Goodwin recommended.
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