For the third year in a row, major depression is on the rise in the United States. A new report looking into the mental health of Americans has found that all ages, genders, and states have experienced an increase in depression, but teenagers have seen the steepest rise.
The report has been released by one of the largest medical insurers in the US, Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS), and has shown that between 2013 and 2016 major depression among its customers increased by 33 percent, meaning that overall around 4.4 percent of Americans with insurance are sufferers.
The increase in those being diagnosed was much more pronounced in the younger age groups, with the number of 12-17-year-olds with depression rising by 63 percent and the number of 18-34-year-olds increasing by 47 percent, around three times and twice that of 35-64-year-olds respectively.
When it comes to geography, every single state sees the level of people being diagnosed with depression rising, but it is not evenly spread. The Midwest and Northeast, for example, have been hit pretty hard with Maine and Minnesota experiencing rises of around 6 percent, while Hawaii sees the lowest rise nationally, of just 2 percent.
Despite the concerning statistics regarding the 41 million people BCBS insures, there is actually quite a lot to unpack here. Overall, women are still twice as likely to be diagnosed with depression as men, but both groups saw this 33 percent rise.
Since the 1930s, depression has been steadily rising among Americans, so this latest report follows that trend. The dramatic rise, however, is not likely due to a sudden increase in people developing depression, but rather because more people are seeking help for it and being diagnosed, meaning that paradoxically the rise is in some ways a good thing, or at least a good sign.
Our understanding of mental health has come on a lot since even just a few decades ago, making doctors much better at reading the signals and symptoms to deduce that someone might be suffering from depression. This is undoubtedly a good thing as it means that more people are getting the treatment they need.
It is also thought that as more prominent people and celebrities openly talk about the battles that they have been fighting, the stigma surrounding mental health issues and depression is – slowly – being eroded.
However, while we might be a bit more open about discussing depression, and medical practitioners better at spotting the signs, the actual treatment of people with mental health problems has remained stationary for quite a while now. The steady climb in the rate of depression needs to be tackled in ways that deal with the root cause, rather than solely the symptoms.