Major depression diagnoses on the rise in the U.S., study finds


Over the past five years, diagnoses of major depression in the United States have risen by at least 33 percent.

>> On AJC.com: People with depression are more likely to use certain words — here’s how they express themselves

That’s according to a new report from the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, for which analysts assessed the BCBS Health Index built from billions of claims for more than 41 million commercially insured Americans annually.

>> Read more trending news 

The index, which quantifies how more than 200 diseases and conditions affect quality of life, showed that major depression is the second most significant condition on overall health in America. The first is hypertension, or high blood pressure.

According to the report, those diagnosed with major depression are nearly 30 percent less healthy on average than those without the condition. Such a decrease in overall health may mean a loss of nearly 10 years of healthy life for both men and women.

>> On AJC.com: Why are Americans so lonely? Massive study finds nearly half of US feels alone, young adults most of all

More than 9 million commercially insured Americans in the index are affected by major depression. The rate of diagnosis in the country is 4.4 percent. But while diagnoses are up 33 percent since 2013 overall, the rate is even higher among teens and young adults − 47 percent. For teen girls, specifically, the rate has risen by 65 percent.

"The high rates for adolescents and millennials could have a substantial health impact for decades to come," Trent Haywood, senior vice president and chief medical officer for BCBSA, said in a statement. "Further education and research is needed to identify methods for both physicians and patients to effectively treat major depression and begin a path to recovery and better overall health." 

Analysts also found that overall, women are more than twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with major depression (6 percent compared to 2.8 percent, respectively).

>> On AJC.com: Depressed? Reduce your symptoms with this type of exercise

Geographically, 49 of the 50 states saw rising diagnosis rates between 2013 and 2016. Hawaii was the only state that experienced a slight decline (a rate of less than 2 percent). Communities in New England, the Pacific Northwest and areas throughout the South and Midwest had higher rates of major depression compared to the rest of the country.

Rhode Island had the highest diagnosis rate with 6 percent. However, the authors noted that differences in efforts to screen for major depression can result in varying diagnoses rates across states.

“While major depression is the second most impactful health condition for the nation, it is complicated by an increased likelihood of overlapping diagnoses of other chronic, behavioral health and pain-related conditions,” authors of the report wrote.

In fact, of the 9 million Americans diagnosed with major depression in 2016, only 15 percent were diagnosed with depression alone. Eighty-five percent, according to the analysis, were diagnosed with an additional health condition.

>> On AJC.com: 5 signs you should ask your doctor about depression

In addition to a lower quality of life, those diagnosed with major depression are more likely to use more healthcare services, resulting in more than twice the spending.

It’s important to note that the report’s findings, based on people with BCBS commercial health insurance, are likely an underestimate. Most Americans are covered by a commercial health plan, but many who report symptoms of depression say they have not been diagnosed or received treatment for the condition.

According to the World Health Organization, more than 300 million people of all ages suffer from depression, and it’s the leading cause of disability worldwide.

>> On AJC.com: The suicide rate for teen girls is the highest it’s been in 40 years — Is social media to blame? 

Additionally, approximately 800,000 people die of suicide each year; that’s one person every 40 seconds. In the U.S., between 1999 and 2014, the suicide rate rose by 24 percent. And, according to recent data released from the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide rates among 15- to 19-year-old girls doubled between 2007 and 2015, reaching a 40-year high.

Read the full Blue Cross Blue Shield report at bcbs.com.


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Health

Springfield’s Rocking Horse gets $50,000 to help kids impacted by drugs
Springfield’s Rocking Horse gets $50,000 to help kids impacted by drugs

A Springfield medical health center will receive new money to help local kids who have lost a parent to drugs. CVS Health distributed a $50,000 grant to Rocking Horse Community Health Center Friday morning that will be used to help Clark County children who have been impacted the most by the opioid epidemic. The money will also go to help children...
CHEERS! The Dayton Art Institute Oktoberfest mugs are a coveted collectible
CHEERS! The Dayton Art Institute Oktoberfest mugs are a coveted collectible

Handcrafted mugs created by regional potters have been a sought-after collectible since Oktoberfest at the Dayton Art Institute began in the 1970s.  The earliest mug in the DAI’s collection, from 1974, is made from glass and features a printed DAI logo. In the years following the mugs were mass produced until the idea to use local potters...
What cats see when they look in the mirror
What cats see when they look in the mirror

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all? Abby, our 16-year old cat, thinks she is. When Abby could no longer jump up on the kitchen counter to eat from her bowl, we searched for a place she could easily reach but Teddy, our Lab, could not. We placed the queen bee’s bowl in front of a large mirror on the master bathroom&rsquo...
Are household disinfectants making kids overweight? Study finds possible link
Are household disinfectants making kids overweight? Study finds possible link

Obesity affects nearly 1 in 6 children in the United States, according to new data from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s State of Obesity report. And new findings from the Canadian Medical Association Journal reveal there may be more contributing to that stat than overeating. Overweight children are approximately five times more...
Seven-Day Menu Planner
Seven-Day Menu Planner

9/23 Family Sunday Enjoy family day with your own Roast Chicken (5 to 7 pounds), mashed potatoes, gravy, peas with pearl onions (from frozen) and mixed greens. For dessert, drizzle creme fraiche or half-and-half over bread pudding. Plan ahead: Save...
More Stories