Nearly One in 12 U.S. Adults Reports Having Depression

Women Twice as Likely as Men to Be Depressed

February 19, 2018 01:35 pm News Staff
[depressed woman sitting down]

A National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) Data Brief(www.cdc.gov) issued Feb. 13 shows that more than 8 percent of adults older than 20 reported having depression during a given two-week period. Of that total, the prevalence of depression among women was almost double that seen in men. 

The brief, which used 2013-16 data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, also found that about 80 percent of adults with depression reported at least some problems performing daily tasks.

Specifically, about 50 percent of adults with depression reported some degree of difficulty with work, home or social activities because of their depression symptoms, and 30 percent reported moderate or extreme difficulty.

Furthermore, the NCHS brief found that

  • the percentage of men with depression who reported difficulty with work, home or social activities because of their symptoms was similar to that for women;
  • the prevalence of depression was significantly lower among non-Hispanic Asian adults (3.1 percent), compared with Hispanic (8.2 percent), non-Hispanic black (9.2 percent) or non-Hispanic white (7.9 percent) adults;
  • depression prevalence did not differ by age; and
  • the prevalence of depression decreased as family income levels increased.

From 2007-08 to 2015-16, the percentage of American adults with depression did not change significantly. Among men, the prevalence was 5.7 percent in 2007-08 and 5.4 percent in 2015-16. Among women, the prevalence was 10.4 percent in 2007-08 and 9.3 percent in 2015-16.

Depression prevalence was based on scores from the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9), a symptom-based screening questionnaire that combines depression diagnostic criteria from the fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders with other leading major depressive symptoms into a brief self-reporting instrument.

Prevalence estimates reported don't include populations considered to be at increased risk for depression (i.e., those in nursing homes or other institutions), the NCHS data brief noted. Moreover, patients currently being treated for depression may not have screened positively for depression using the PHQ-9.

Finally, the NCHS researchers said this report's findings could be limited and likely represent conservative estimates of depression among adults in the United States, because some people with depression may not have been able or willing to participate in the survey.

It's worth noting that in 2016, the AAFP and U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommended screening for depression in the general adult population, including pregnant and postpartum women.

"Screening should be implemented with adequate systems in place to ensure accurate diagnosis, effective treatment and appropriate followup," the groups said.

Related AAFP News Coverage
Screen All Adults for Depression, Say USPSTF, AAFP
Evidence Shows Screening in Primary Care Setting Is Beneficial
(1/27/2016)

Screen Teens for Depression, Say USPSTF, AAFP
Evidence Is Insufficient to Recommend Screening for Children

(2/22/2016)

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