November 14, 2016
1 min read

Depressive episodes increase nationally among adolescents, young adults

You've successfully added to your alerts. You will receive an email when new content is published.

Click Here to Manage Email Alerts

We were unable to process your request. Please try again later. If you continue to have this issue please contact

Analysis of nationally representative data indicated a significant increase in prevalence of major depressive episodes within the last year among adolescents and young adults.

“Examining temporal trends in prevalence of depression among young people has implications for evaluating whether they have benefited from increasing use of mental health treatments. Characterization of national trends in depressive disorders and their treatment could also inform community efforts to improve access to mental health services for young people,” Ramin Mojtabai, MD, PhD, MPH, of Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, and colleagues wrote.

Ramin Mojtabai

To assess national trends in 12-month prevalence of major depressive episodes in adolescents and young adults, researchers analyzed data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health for 2005 to 2014. The study cohort included 172,495 adolescents aged 12 to 17 years and 178,755 adults aged 18 to 25 years.

Twelve-month prevalence of major depressive episodes increased from 8.7% in 2005 to 11.3% in 2014 among adolescents and from 8.8% to 9.6% in young adults (P < .001 for both).

This increase was larger and statistically significantly only for ages 12 to 20 years.

After adjusting for substance use disorders and sociodemographic factors, trends remained significant.

Overall, mental health care contacts did not change over time. However, use of specialty mental health providers increased among both age groups and use of prescription medications and inpatient hospitalizations increased among adolescents.

“The combination of these findings leaves us with some new urgency. The causes behind a rise in adolescent depression should be investigated scientifically. The other problem, that of ever-increasing untreated youth depression, concerns all of us at a time when suicide is now the second leading cause of death for adolescents aged 15 to 19 years,” Anne L. Glowinski, MD, MPE, and Giuseppe D’Amelio, BS, of Washington University, St. Louis, wrote in an accompanying editorial. “Sadly, even if this important update influences primary care providers to screen more youth, there will never be enough qualified mental health specialists to take care of the 2.8 million or more adolescents per year, who, if screened and identified, will need treatment and monitoring for depression...Is it not time for educational requirements that reflect the urgent needs of our pediatric patients?” – by Amanda Oldt

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.