Surge in depression among American teens, especially girls: Study

Surge in depression among American teens, especially girls: Study

Sadness and anxiety are common emotions experienced by teenagers and young adults. This is not a new phenomenon, but there has been a significant increase in the percentage of people aged between 12 and 20 years to be diagnosed with major depressive episode (MDE), according to a recent study published in the journal Pediatrics in November 2016.

As per the study, depression is on the rise among American teens and young adults, with adolescent girls falling in the high-risk category. However, the most shocking finding is a disproportion between the number of teenagers seeking treatment and the number of overall cases being reported.

As per the study, “National Trends in the Prevalence and Treatment of Depression in Adolescents and Young Adults”, there has been a jump in the number of teens reporting MDE – from 8.7 percent in 2005 to 11.3 percent in 2014. The study analyzed data from the National Surveys on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH).

Symptoms of MDE include problems with sleep, lack of concentration, low self-esteem and loss of interest in normally enjoyable activities. The study said that there was a disparity between the number of adolescents with mental illnesses and those seeking treatment for the problem.

Lead author of the study Dr. Ramin Mojtabai, a professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said that socio-demographic and household factors did not account for an increase in depression trends. He also stated that there was no correlation between substance abuse among teens and the new trend in depression.

The study analyzed data from 2005 to 2014 of teenagers between the age group 12 to 17 and young adults aged between 18 and 25 years. Another revelation made by the study was an increase in depressive episodes among adolescent girls, compared to adolescent  boys. The study found that the depressive episodes for adolescent girls increased from 13.1 percent in 2004 to 17.3 percent in 2014.

Co-author of the study Dr. Mark Olfson, a professor at the Columbia University, said that the nation needs to address the disparity between the increasing number of cases of teenage depression and the number of teenagers actively seeking treatment.

Reasons for increase in depression among teens

As per experts, it is not possible to determine the exact causes of the rise in depression among teens in the U.S. as a variety of factors are responsible for the problem. As per the study, some of the major reasons for an increase in depression among adolescent girls are cyber-bullying and use of mobile phones with texting applications.

Cyber-bullying: As per Dr. Olfson, negative texting experience is linked to depressed mood and this is more common in girls than boys. As per the study, problematic mobile phone use by young people is linked to depressive mood and as compared to adolescent boys, adolescent girls utilized mobile phones more frequently and intensively.

Social media use: As per a survey by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) of more than 10,000 Ontario students from grades 7 to 12 during 2014-15 school year, a number of school children experienced moderate to serious psychological distress. The study also found that approximately 16 percent school students spent five hours or more a day on social media and around 86 percent school students were on social media daily.

According to Dr. Anne Glowinski, director, child and adolescent psychiatry education and training, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, the findings are not surprising. She also suggested sleep deprivation due to excessive internet use as another factor behind depression among teens.

Recovery road map

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), depression has emerged as the most common disability in the world with around 350 million people in the world suffering from it. If you or your loved one is struggling with depression, contact the Depression Treatment Helpline to find the top depression recovery centers in the U.S. Call at our 24/7 helpline number 866-619-7729 or chat online with our counselors to find the best rehabilitation centers for depression in your area.