Depression’s Ugly Statistical Truth

Severe depression means your symptoms seriously “interfere with your ability to work, sleep, study, eat and enjoy life,” as explained by the National Institute of Health. Of severely depressed folks, only a little over one-third reported having seen a mental health professional in the past year. Depression sufferers must also contend with the stigma surrounding mental health, including the pervasive belief that sufferers can just “snap out of it.” The NIH is clear that depression is caused by “a combination of genetic, biological, environmental and psychological factors.”

The latest statistics on depression reveal some things that are downright, well, depressing actually.

This week, the Centers for Disease Control released data on depression in the U.S. from 2009 to 2012. The findings show that during that three-year time period, 7.6 percent of Americans  age 12 and up experienced a period of depression. (Depression was defined by having moderate to severe despressive symptoms in the past two weeks.) Approximately 3% had severe depression, meaning the symptoms seriously “interfere with your ability to work, sleep, study, eat and enjoy life,” as explained by the National Institute of Health. Of those severely depressed folks, only a little over one-third reported having seen a mental health professional in the past year.

These numbers add to the growing conversation about the quality and accesibility of mental health care in the U.S. (a topic that always skyrockets in popularity after tragedies like mass shootings). Yet that conversation always seems to die down some time after these atrocities have passed. Improving mental health care — whether it’s a temporary case of the blues or a longer-term mood disorder — need to be addressed on a larger scale. Statistics on adolescents specifically show how lack of access and insurance obstacles set up barriers for those desperately in need of treatment. Depression sufferers must also contend with the stigma surrounding mental health, including the pervasive belief that sufferers can just “snap out of it.” The NIH is clear that depression is caused by “a combination of genetic, biological, environmental and psychological factors.”
Other notable stats from the report include:

  • Women in every age group had higher rates of depression than males.
  • Middle-aged women had the highest depression rate, at 12.3%.
  • The lowest depression rates were in young men ages 12 to 17 and 60 and over, at 4% and 3.4% respectively.
  • Non-Hispanic white people were less likely to have depressive symptoms than both non-Hispanic Black people and Hispanic people.
  • Those living below the poverty line were over twice as likely to be depressed.
  • 88% of those with severe depressive symptoms reported having difficulty at home, work, or social activities as a result of their symptoms.

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