Just The Facts: What You Need To Know About Depression

Depression is a mood disorder and mental health problem that the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates affects 3.8% of people, or nearly three million worldwide. Since the global events of 2020, clinical depression rates have reached crisis proportions, especially in the United States. Here are some current statistics and information about depression.

Fact: Depression Rates Are Rising

Since Gallup started measuring depression rates in 2015, they reported the highest rates of lifetime and current depression rates in the US. In 2019, the National Institute of Mental Health estimated that 7.8% of US adults had at least one major depressive episode. As of February 2023, Gallup estimates that 17.8% of adults in the US currently have depression.

Fact: Depression Disproportionately Affects Women

The 2023 Gallup Panel reported that 36% of women have been diagnosed with depression at some point throughout their lives. This rate has increased nearly twice the rate of men’s report of depression since 2017. Only 20% of men reported depression in their lifetime for reference.

This widening gap since 2017 could be related to the fact that nearly 80% of workers in any healthcare occupation were female as of 2019. This disproportionately exposed women to more emotional and psychological risks associated with the global pandemic. Additionally, women were more likely to lose their careers or exit the workforce willingly to care for and educate children required to stay home in 2020.

Fact: Depression Rates Are Not Equal Across Races

Previously, white adult respondents have held the highest rates of both lifetime and current depression. However, the most recent Gallup report showed lifetime depression rates of both Hispanic (12%) and Black (14%) adults have now surpassed white adults (6.7%).

Fact: Anyone Can Experience Postpartum Depression (PPD)

Approximately one in seven women develop PPD, and half of them have never had an episode of depression before. Roughly 50% of all women with PPD actually had symptoms during their pregnancies. While more research is available on mothers with PPD, it can also occur in fathers called paternal postnatal depression (PPND).

It’s important to understand that postpartum or perinatal depression can happen to both women and men, even without a previous history of depression. If it does occur, you are more at risk for future depressive episodes or other mental health issues.

Fact: Depression Doesn’t Only Affect Adults

4.4% of children between the ages of three and 17 have been diagnosed with depression. In 2023, nearly 17% of adolescents ages 12 to 17 reported at least one major depressive episode in the last year, with 11.5% experiencing severe major depression. Of those adolescents with major depression, almost 60% didn’t receive any mental health treatment.

Fact: Depression Doesn’t Always Look The Same

There are many different patterns of depression. For example, you could experience any of the following:

  • A single episode: You only have one episode, and it doesn’t recur.
  • Recurrent depression: You must have a history of two or more episodes of depression.
  • Psychotic depression: Also called depression with psychosis, a severe depressive episode can cause delusional thinking or hallucinations.

Additionally, each person’s depression can manifest in slightly different ways. While persistent sadness, feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness, and a lack of motivation to do things you used to enjoy are the most commonly experienced symptoms, you can have:

  • A Shift In Your Concentration: Everyone has difficulties concentrating now and then. However, this is a pronounced shift that would affect your relationships, studies, or work.
  • Externalized Depressive Symptoms: Excessive drinking, seeking an affair, or withdrawing from loved ones can be external symptoms of depression that are ways you are masking your internal feelings.
  • Irritability, Hostility, or Extreme Anger: Aggressive behavior is another form of externalized symptoms, but lashing out in this manner can mean you have a more severe form of depression.
  • Extreme Perfectionism or Guilt: These feelings can be normal, but intense guilt or rigid perfectionism that feels all-consuming and you cannot think of anything else can be a sign of depression.
  • Toggling Events: You may be under the misconception that when you’re depressed, you cannot feel happy. You can experience happiness with brief events temporarily before crashing back down. This is known as a toggling event, which is a common symptom that masks depression for a time.

Fact: Untreated Depression Can Lead To Self-Harm Or Suicide

You or your loved ones may be ignoring depression for any number of reasons: denial, not recognizing the symptoms, stigma, financial concerns, and many more. However, a very real risk of leaving depression untreated is suicide. The WHO reports over 700,000 people die annually due to suicide. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) found over 12 million American adults thought seriously about suicide, 3.5 million planned an attempt, and nearly two million attempted suicide. Don’t wait for a near miss or suicide attempt to get help.

Fact: Treatment Isn’t What It Used To Be

The truth is talk therapy and antidepressant medications have been depression’s treatment standard for decades, but other effective treatment options don’t get as much attention. For example, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is a treatment performed in a hospital for extreme cases of depression. An excellent, medication-free alternative depression treatment is transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). Clinicians administer this treatment in a relaxing outpatient clinic without any medication. Although, it can be used as a complementary treatment to strengthen the effects of antidepressant drugs as well. Other complementary therapies can include acupuncture, reflexology, massage, yoga and other physical exercise, breath work, meditation, guided imagery, and hypnotherapy.

Depression rates are on the rise. While there are higher rates in certain groups, depression doesn’t leave any age, gender, sex, race, or ethnicity untouched. If you are already struggling with depressive episodes, continue working with a mental health professional to find the right combination of treatments that works for you. If you haven’t experienced a depressive episode yet, take these steps to protect your mental wellness in 2024.