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Depression rises four times faster among teens than adults

Depression continues to surge among US teens, according to a new study.

A Columbia University study found that Americans have become increasingly depressed over the last ten years, but teens are more at risk of psychological distress than other age groups over 12 years old.

Depression among teens rose at quadruple the rate of the general population from 2005 to 2015, according to the new research.  

The study was based on an annual survey of more than 600,000 people over the age of 12 in the US.

Depression is on the rise in the US and rates among teens are surging faster as their symptoms often go unnoticed, undiagnosed and untreated, a new Columbia University study finds

The study found the most significant increases in rates of depressions among the youngest and oldest demographics, but rose most rapidly and dramatically among the youngest.

Mental health concerns among teenagers and young adults have been the subject of growing concerns for years now. The study authors wrote that ‘depression for youth is not just increasing but it is actually increasing faster than any other age group.’

Last year, data from the National Surveys on Drug Use and Health found 11.5 percent of teens reported having major depressive disorder in 2014. By 2015, according to the Columbia University data, 12.7 percent of teens were depressed.

Experts and analytics also suggest that technology and media are contributing to the rising rates of depression among teens.


Although they may not describe feeling depressed, warning signs include saying they are stressed or easily annoyed. 

Other symptoms include tearfulness, withdrawing from socializing, changes in eating habits and a lack of energy.

Physical signs are headaches, poor digestion, and muscle and joint pain. 

Stress and depression often appear together.

Like depression, stress can also cause fatigue, headache and aching muscles, as well as ulcers.


Earlier this year, the Netflix show 13 Reasons Why sparked controversy as Google searches for ‘how to commit suicide’ surged following its release. The show came under fire for glamorizing suicide in the eyes of teens like its 17-year-old protagonist.

The Columbia study authors write that ‘adolescents are increasingly exposed to risk factors derived from the use of new technologies, such as cyberbullying and problematic social media use.’

In 2015, the same year as this study’s most recent data, suicide among teenage girls in the US was more prevalent than it had been in 40 years, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Family and home-life stresses like poverty may also have disproportionate effects on teens and adolescents, the study authors wrote.

This suggestion follows findings from Washington University, published last year, that teens who reported a major depressive disorder were more likely to be older, not enrolled in school, unemployed, in households with single or no parents and to struggle with substance abuse.

The same study found that young people were neither more likely to seek nor receive mental health care. The Columbia University researchers in this most recent study echoed this concern, citing previous evidence that ‘the proportion of young people with depression who are not receiving treatment for their depression may be increasing over time as well.’

While more public conversations about mental health have helped to destigmatize mood disorders, teens often still hesitate to call what they’re struggling with ‘depression.’

A study done earlier this year by the University of Illinois reported that teenagers tended to report symptoms like feeling down, irritable, stressed or hopeless, rather than feeling ‘depressed.’

‘Efforts to understand depression among teens should also include examining ways to increase the utilization of depression treatments for this age group,’ the Columbia researchers wrote.

Research suggests that teenagers’ depression often goes untreated, and follows them to college, where more young adults are seeing therapists than ever before.

According to a Penn State University study published earlier this year, the number of college student that saw a mental health profession doubled in 2016 over the previous year. Of those surveyed, nearly 50 percent of students from 139 US colleges and universities said they had felt depressed.

That study also reported that 74 percent of mental health conditions develop before people are 24 years old, underscoring the importance mental health care for teenagers as well as young adults.

The Columbia University study authors wrote that more research in ‘understanding the macro level, micro level, and individual factors that are contributing to the increase in depression, including factors specific to demographic subgroups, would help to direct public health prevention and intervention efforts.


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