National Data Show Depression's Heavy Toll

Megan Brooks

February 13, 2018

Overall, about 8% of US adults have depression, and women are almost twice as likely as men to suffer from depression, according to national estimates released today.

During 2013-2016, 10.4% of women aged 20 years and older had depression, compared with 5.5% of men, according to National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data. The higher prevalence of depression in women has been noted in prior studies, Debra Brody, MPH, and colleagues from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) note in their data brief.

Among both men and women, the percentage with depression did not differ statistically across age groups, the researchers report.

They also note that rates of depression have not changed much during the past decade. On the basis of the NHANES data, the prevalence of depression among women was 10.4% in 2007-2008 and 9.3% in 2015-2016. For men, rates were 5.7% in 2007-2008 and 5.4% in 2015-2016.

The prevalence of depression was lowest (3.1%) among non-Hispanic Asian adults, a finding noted in other studies. Prevalence was highest (9.2%) among non-Hispanic black adults. This pattern was seen in both men and women.

Conservative Estimates

The prevalence of depression among both men and women decreased with increasing family income level, the NHANES 2013-2016 data show. Overall, 15.8% of adults from families living below the federal poverty level (FPL) had depression. The prevalence decreased to 3.5% among adults living at or above 400% of the FPL. The prevalence of depression was lowest (2.3%) among men with family income at or above this level. The highest prevalence (19.8%) was seen among women with family incomes below the FPL.

Depression exacts a high toll, with about 80% of depressed adults reporting at least some difficulty with work, home, or social activities due to their depressive symptoms.

Brody and colleagues say it's important to keep in mind that these prevalence estimates do not include populations considered at higher risk for depression, such as those in nursing homes or other institutions. Also, individuals receiving medication or other therapy for depression may not have screened positive for depression, and some people with depression may not have been able or willing to participate in the NHANES.

"Therefore, these findings may represent conservative estimates of depression among adults in the United States," they conclude.

NCHS. Data brief 303. Published online February 13, 2018. Full text

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