Diagnosis of Major Depression on the Rise, Especially in Teens and Millennials

By Alexa Lardieri, Staff Writer May 10, 2018

Depression rates increased in all but one state, and rose most dramatically among adolescents and millennials.

DEPRESSION DIAGNOSES rose 33 percent in America from 2013 to 2016, mostly among adolescents and millennials.

The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association published a study Thursday, Major Depression: The Impact On Overall Health, which found depression diagnoses are increasing rapidly in America, especially among certain demographics. It increased 63 percent in adolescents (ages 12 to 17) and 47 percent in millennials (ages 18 to 34). The mental illness has a 4.4 percent overall diagnosis rate and affects more than nine million commercially insured people in the United States.

"Major depression diagnoses are growing quickly, especially for adolescents and millennials," Senior Vice President and Chief Medical Officer for BCBSA, Trent Haywood, said in a press release. "The high rates for adolescents and millennials could have a substantial health impact for decades to come.

Another vulnerable population is women. They are diagnosed with major depression at higher rates than men, 6 percent compared to 3 percent.

Depression diagnoses also vary geographically. Rates of major depression are highest among states in the New England region, the Pacific northwest and sections in the south and midwest. Rhode Island has the highest rate of major depression, at about 6 percent, while Hawaii has the lowest at about 2 percent. All but one of the 50 states and the District and Columbia had an increase in the diagnosis rate of the mental illness. Hawaii was the only state that saw a slight decline.

According to the study, those diagnosed with depression are almost 30 percent less healthy on average than people living without depression. That's because they commonly have other health conditions. Only 15 percent of people with depression only had that condition. Twenty-one percent had one other health condition, 19 percent had two, 16 percent had three and 29 percent had four or more other chronic health conditions.

Additionally, people with depression use healthcare services more than other commercially insured Americans, leading to more than twice the overall healthcare spending, $10,673 compared to $4,283. An average of $920 per year is spent to treat a person with major depression.

The study states major depression "has many implications for the future healthcare needs." And Haywood stressed "further education and research is needed to identify methods for both physicians and patients to effectively treat major depression and begin a path to recovery and better overall health."