A recent Gallup Poll has revealed a concerning trend in the United States – the prevalence of depression is on the rise. More than 1 in 6 Americans, or nearly 18 percent of US adults, report that they are currently depressed or receiving treatment for depression. This represents a significant increase from the less than 11 percent reported in 2015. The data from Gallup also indicates that depression rates were already slowly rising before the pandemic, but the impact of the pandemic exacerbated the situation, leading to a faster increase in depression cases.
Various factors contribute to the rising rates of depression. Social isolation, loneliness, fear of infection, psychological exhaustion, substance abuse, and disruptions in mental health care have all taken a toll on individuals’ mental well-being. Certain groups, including women, young adults, and Black and Hispanic adults, have experienced the steepest increase in depression rates.
The alarming statistics extend to adolescents as well. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 20 percent of adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17, or approximately 5 million young individuals, experienced an episode of major depression in 2021. Of these, 3.7 million experienced severe impairment.
Psychiatrist Charles Raison, who has personal experience with depression, describes the state of mental health in the United States as “bad.” He emphasizes that depression, anxiety, suicide, and substance abuse have been on the rise for the past two decades, with a particularly disturbing increase among young people aged 15 to 35.
One of the challenges in addressing depression lies in its multifaceted nature. Depression, like “dropsy,” an old-fashioned term for edema, can stem from various underlying causes or conditions. Raison explains that depression cannot be boiled down to a single test or explanation due to its complexity.
While antidepressants like Prozac have been a primary treatment option for depression, they don’t work for everyone. Raison acknowledges that antidepressants have been lifesaving for some individuals but points out that they are not as effective as initially believed. The complexity of depression and its varying underlying causes make it challenging to find a universal solution.
The rising rates of depression in the United States highlight the urgent need for comprehensive mental health support and resources. Recognizing the contributing factors and addressing them holistically can help create a society that prioritizes mental well-being.