Is depression increasing? Major depression diagnoses have risen by as much as 33% according to a report by insurer Blue Cross Blue Shield. These numbers may be under-reports since they do not include the uninsured, and even among insured people there is significant under-diagnosis.
Particularly concerning is the rise in depression among adolescents and young adults. Rates have increased as much as 65% among youths aged 12 to 17 and 47% among young adults.
Practitioners are cautious about assigning a simple causality to these results, with some citing an increase in busyness and pressure to succeed, while others suggest that internet or screen addiction may be a factor in some cases, especially among teenagers.
The report highlights these explanations…
“Major depression diagnoses are growing quickly, especially for adolescents and millennials,” said Trent Haywood, senior vice president and chief medical officer for BCBSA. “The high rates for adolescents and millennials could have a substantial health impact for decades to come. 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.”
“It is possible that the increased rates of depression in adolescents are related to a combination of increased electronics use and sleep disruptions in already vulnerable individuals,” said Dr. Karyn Horowitz, a psychiatrist affiliated with Emma Pendleton Bradley Hospital in Rhode Island. “Increased use of electronics, video games more commonly in boys and social media/texting more commonly in girls, can lead to increased conflict both within the home and with peers.”
“In preliminary literature, high users of social media have been linked with higher rates of social isolation than low users,” Haywood added. “It is important to further explore this relationship.”
According to the Center for Disease Control, the causes of clinical depression are unknown, but risk factors may include:
- Having blood relatives who have had depression
- Experiencing traumatic or stressful events, such as physical or sexual abuse, the death of a loved one, or financial problems
- Going through a major life change‚ even if it was planned
- Having a medical problem, such as cancer, stroke, or chronic pain
- Taking certain medications. (Talk to your doctor if you have questions about whether your medications might be making you feel depressed).
- Using alcohol or drugs
Clinical depression is often associated with other health conditions, and has been linked to a higher risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, osteoporosis and Alzheimer’s disease, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.