Depression is the most common mental health disorder in the United States among teens and adults, and can have a serious impact on the lives of the many teens who suffer from depression.
Statistics show that teen depression is a common problem:
- About 20 percent of teens will experience teen depression before they reach adulthood.
- Between 10 to 15 percent of teenagers have some symptoms of teen depression at any one time.
- About 5 percent of teens are suffering from major depression at any one time
- As many as 8.3 percent of teens suffer from depression for at least a year at a time, compared to about 5.3 percent of the general population.
- Most teens with depression will suffer from more than one episode. 20 to 40 percent will have more than one episode within two years, and 70 percent will have more than one episode before adulthood. Episodes of teen depression generally last about 8 months.
- Dysthymia, a type of mild, long-lasting depression, affects about 2 percent of teens, and about the same percentage of teens develop bipolar disorder in their late teenage years. 15 percent of teens with depression eventually develop bipolar disorder.
- A small percent of teens also suffer from seasonal depression, usually during the winter months in higher latitudes.
Teen depression can affect a teen regardless of gender, social background, income level, race, or school or other achievements, though teenage girls report suffering from depression more often than teenage boys. Teenage boys are less likely to seek help or recognize that they suffer from depression, probably due to different social expectations for boys and girls - girls are encouraged to express their feelings while boys are not. Teenage girls’ somewhat stronger dependence on social ties, however, can increase the chances of teen depression being triggered by social factors, such as loss of friends.
Other risk factors that increase the chances of an episode of teen depression include:
- Previous episodes of depression
- Experiencing trauma, abuse, or a long-term illness or disability
- A family history of depression; between 20 to 50 percent of teens who suffer from depression have a family member with depression or other mental disorders
- Other untreated problems; about two thirds of teens with major depression also suffer from another mental disorder, such as dysthymia, addiction to drugs or alcohol, anxiety, or antisocial behaviors
A teen suffering from depression is also at higher risk for other problems:
- 30 percent of teens with depression also develop a substance abuse problem.
- Teenagers with depression are likely to have a smaller social circle and take advantage of fewer opportunities for education or careers.
- Depressed teens are more likely to have trouble at school and in jobs, and to struggle with relationships.
- Teens with untreated depression are more likely to engage in risky sexual behaviors, leading to higher rates of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.
- Teens with depression seem to catch physical illnesses more often than other teens.
- Untreated depression is the number one cause of suicide, the third leading cause of death among teenagers. 90 percent of suicide victims suffer from a mental illness, and suffering from depression can make a teenager as much as 12 times more likely to attempt suicide.
Less than 33 percent of teens with depression get help, yet 80 percent of teens with depression can be successfully treated if they seek help from a doctor or therapist, and many local health clinics offer free or discounted treatment for teens with depression.
Teenage Depression Statistics Sources:
- Mental Health: A Report of the Surgeon General [online] Kidshealth.org from the Nemours Foundation, “Understanding Depression” [online]
- Center for Mental Health Services, SAMHSA, A Family Guide, Keeping Youth Mentally Healthy and Drug Free, “Depression Hurts” [online]
- U.S. National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health, MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia, "Depression signs in Teenagers” [online]
- Mental Health: A Report of the Surgeon General, “Depression and Suicide in children and adolescents” [online]
- WebMD.com : Depression in Childhood and Adolescence [online] WebMD/The Cleveland Clinic “Seasonal Depression” [online]
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