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Depression statistics 2021

What is depression? | How common is depression? | Depression in America | Depression statistics by age | Postpartum depression statistics | Holiday depression statistics | Suicide and depression | Depression treatment | Research

Major depressive disorder (MDD), commonly known as clinical depression, is one of the most common mental disorders worldwide. Many different factors can contribute to a person’s depressive state and depression is often an overlapping diagnosis along with other medical conditions and/or mental disorders. 

What is depression?

The most prominent symptoms of major depression are a severe and persistent low mood, profound sadness, or a sense of despair. A major depressive episode (MDE) is a period of time characterized by symptoms of major depression. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders defines a major depressive episode as experiencing a depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure in daily activities, accompanied by problems with sleeping, eating, energy, concentration, or self-worth for two weeks or longer. 

“Sudden losses or changes can exacerbate pre-existing symptoms of depression or anxiety,” says Yesel Yoon, Ph.D., a psychologist based in New York. Depressive episodes can be triggered by the death of a loved one, a break-up, job loss, financial stress, a medical condition, and substance use disorder among other triggers.

“Depression affects people by changing their level of functioning in many areas of their life,” says Yoon. “Namely, people’s sleep, appetite, concentration, mood, energy level, physical health, and social lives can change dramatically due to the symptoms of depression. Often people who struggle with depression will describe having difficulty getting out of bed, having little to no motivation or energy to do the things they typically do, and feeling irritable or very sad. All of these different things certainly make living life much harder.”

How common is depression?

  • More than 264 million people suffer from depression worldwide. (World Health Organization, 2020)
  • Depression is the leading cause of disability in the world. (World Health Organization, 2020)
  • Neuropsychiatric disorders are the leading cause of disability in the U.S. with major depressive disorder being the most common. (National Institute of Mental Health, 2013)

Depression statistics in America

  • 17.3 million adults (7.1% of the adult population) have had at least one major depressive episode. (National Institute of Mental Health, 2017)
  • Of those with major depressive episodes, 63.8% of adults and 70.77% of adolescents had severe impairment. (National Institute of Mental Health, 2017)
  • Women are nearly twice as likely as men to have depression. (Centers for Disease Control, 2017)
  • Major depressive episodes were most prevalent among adults (11.3%) and adolescents (16.9%) reporting two or more races. (National Institute of Mental Health, 2017)

Depression statistics by age

  • Adolescents aged 12 to 17 years old had the highest rate of major depressive episodes (14.4%) followed by young adults 18 to 25 years old (13.8%). (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association, 2018)
  • Older adults aged 50 and older had the lowest rate of major depressive episodes (4.5%). (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association, 2018)
  • 11.5 million adults had a major depressive episode with severe impairment in the past year as of 2018. (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association, 2018)
  • Severe depression among college students rose from 9.4% to 21.1% from 2013 to 2018. (Journal of Adolescent Health, 2019)
  • The rate of moderate to severe depression rose from 23.2% to 41.1% from 2007 to 2018. (Journal of Adolescent Health, 2019)

Postpartum depression statistics

Postpartum depression is depression suffered by a mother who has recently undergone childbirth, typically occurring within three months to a year after giving birth. This may be due to hormonal changes, changes in lifestyle, and parenthood fatigue. 

  • About 70% to 80% of women will experience the “baby blues” characterized by negative feelings or mood swings after childbirth. (American Pregnancy Association, 2015)
  • 10% to 20% of new mothers experience clinical postpartum depression. (Arizona Behavioral Health Associates, P.C, Flagstaff Psychologists & Counselors)
  • 1 in 7 women may experience PPD within a year of giving birth. (JAMA Psychiatry, 2013)
  • Paternal depression ranged from 24% to 50% in men who had partners with postpartum depression. (Journal of Advanced Nursing, 2004)
  • Women with a history of depression, anxiety disorders, or serious mood disorders are 30% to 35% more likely to develop postpartum depression. (Johns Hopkins Medicine, 2013)

RELATED: Can you take antidepressants when pregnant?

Holiday depression statistics

Although the “holiday season” during the months of November and December are typically thought of as joyful, this is not the reality for everyone. Some develop depressive symptoms during these months.

  • Stress levels reportedly increase during the holiday season for 38% of people. (American Psychological Association, 2006)
  • Of people with mental illness, 64% report holidays make their symptoms worse. (National Alliance on Mental Illness, 2014)
  • Of those who reported feeling sad or dissatisfied during the holidays, more than two-thirds of them felt financially stressed and/or lonely. (National Alliance on Mental Illness, 2014)

RELATED: Tips for dealing with holiday depression

Suicide and depression 

  • Two-thirds of those who commit suicide struggle with depression. (American Association of Suicidology, 2009)
  • Of those diagnosed with depression, 1% of women and 7% of men commit suicide. (American Association of Suicidology, 2009)
  • The risk of suicide is about 20 times greater among those diagnosed with major depression in comparison to those without major depression. (American Association of Suicidology, 2009)
  • Suicide is one of the leading causes of death for 15- to 19-year-olds. (Centers for Disease Control, 2017)
  • Reports of suicide attempts among college students increased from 0.7% to 1.8% from 2013 to 2018. (Journal of Adolescent Health, 2019)

The National Network of Depression Disorders has many resources available for those experiencing depression or suicidal thoughts. Here are some additional treatment locators and helplines:

Treating depression

Psychotherapy, prescription medication, or a combination of both are used to treat depression.

“There are also alternative or complementary therapy approaches, which have been found to be beneficial to mitigate the symptoms of depression,” says Yoon. “These include light therapy, vitamins or supplements, physical exercise, mindfulness-based meditation, and other creative expressive forms of therapy.” 

  • Of those who had a major depressive episode, adults aged 50 or older had the highest treatment rate for depression (78.9%). (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association, 2018)
  • Adolescents aged 12 to 17 had the lowest treatment rate (41.4%). (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association, 2018)
  • Almost 25 million adults in the U.S. have been taking antidepressants for at least two years, a 60% increase since 2010. (American Pharmacist Association, 2018) 
  • Women are twice as likely to take antidepressants than men. (American Psychological Association, 2017)

RELATED: Depression treatment and medications

Depression research