Prevalence, Treatment, and Control of Depressive Symptoms in the United States: Results from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), 2005–2008

Ruth S. Shim, MD, MPH; Peter Baltrus, PhD; Jiali Ye, PhD; George Rust, MD, MPH


J Am Board Fam Med. 2011;24(1):33-38. 

In This Article


Among the total sample, 10, 283 adults completed the PHQ-9. Based on their scores, 2, 399 had depressive symptoms, representing 42, 116, 283 US adults (21.6%; 95% CI, 20.1–23.3), with 14.8% endorsing mild depressive symptoms, 4.52% endorsing moderate depressive symptoms, 1.8% endorsing moderately severe depressive symptoms, and 0.6% endorsing severe depressive symptoms. Table 1 shows the percentage of the population with depressive symptoms, categorized by age and sex.

Among individuals with moderately severe and severe depressive symptoms (for which guidelines recommend treatment with an antidepressant), 17.0% (95% CI, 12.7–22.6) received treatment with an antidepressant only; 17.6% (95% CI, 12.0–25.1) had seen a mental health professional only; and 14.8% (95% CI, 10.8–19.9) received ideal treatment of antidepressant and treatment by a mental health professional. Even among adults with the most severe depressive symptoms (PHQ-9 score >20), only 24.8% (95% CI, 12.1–44.0) had combined treatment with an antidepressant and a mental health professional, whereas a large percentage (36.9%; 95% CI, 24.8–51.0) received no form of treatment either from a mental health professional or with antidepressant medication (see Table 2).

Of the 10.4% of the US population currently taking antidepressant medications, 54.9% (95% CI, 51.2–58.5) were not currently experiencing depressive symptoms. Ongoing mild depressive symptoms continued to be reported by 26.4% (95% CI, 23.6–29.4); 11.9% (95% CI, 9.5–14.7) endorsed moderate depressive symptoms; 4.9% (95% CI, 3.8–6.3) endorsed moderately severe depressive symptoms; and 2.0% (95% CI, 1.2–3.3) endorsed severe depressive symptoms.


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