Depression: Some Astounding Statistics and What You Should do if You or a Loved One is Confronting It
Americans are becoming increasingly depressed, and have been since at least the 1950s. Back in 1905, for instance, just 1 percent of Americans suffered from depression by age 75. Fast-forward to 1955, and 6 percent were depressed — by the age of 24, according to research by Dr. Myrna Weissman of the New York State Psychiatric Institute.
Women are twice as likely as men to experience depression, likely because of hormonal factors.
Meanwhile, a past study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found some revealing statistics. A study of over 39,000 people in several countries, including the United States, found that each successive generation was more likely to experience major depression at an earlier age, and a greater number of people overall experienced at least one episode of severe depression.
Today, 9.5 percent of the U.S. population, nearly 30 million adults, suffers from depression in any given yearlong period, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).
Why Are People Becoming More Depressed?
It seems that, across the board, depression is impacting millions.
- 15 percent of the elderly experience depression at some point, and the NIMH calls this a “serious public health concern.”
- 2 percent of school-aged children and 5 percent to 8 percent of adolescents suffer from depression, according to a study in American Family Physician.
- 15 percent of college students said they’d been diagnosed with depression in 2004, up from 10 percent in 2000, according to the American College Health Association’s National College Health Assessment (ACHA-NCHA).
Theories as to what’s causing all of this depression — a laundry-list of symptoms that impact your ability to function in daily life for weeks, months and even years at a time — are varied. While some say the rising rates are simply an artifact of greater awareness and diagnoses, most believe something larger is at play.
“Some part of the trend may be due to better identification of depression in more recent years, but we’ve ruled out greater accuracy in diagnosis as being the major explanation,” said Dr. Weissman in a New York Times article.
One thing’s for sure, depression is often the result of a variety of physical, emotional and environmental triggers, which include:
- Genetics/family history
- Erosion of the nuclear family (increasing divorce rates, families moving apart, parents working longer hours).
- Stress early in life, which can impact the development of neurons and predispose you to depression when you’re under stress later in life
- Greater focus on individuality, and less focus on family and community (which means you have less support to fall back on during times of hardship)
- Among women, who experience depression about twice as often as men, hormonal factors, such as menstrual cycle changes, pregnancy, miscarriage, childbirth and the postpartum period, pre-menopause, and menopause, may contribute
- Environmental chemical pollutants in your air, home, water, food, etc.
- Certain medications, such as sleeping pills, high blood pressure medication and birth control pills
Common Symptoms of
People with depression often face some or all of the following symptoms, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
If You or a Loved One are Depressed, Here’s What to Do
Medications are available for depression, but they do have side effects. Antidepressant drugs have been linked to an increase in suicidal thoughts and behavior in children, teens and young adults, and among adults may cause insomnia, sexual problems, nausea, agitation and more.
That said, it’s important for anyone facing depression to get help, as, left untreated, depression can lead to a loss of independence and disability. Here are several options to help those in need:
- Therapy: This can come from a psychiatrist, psychologist, group therapy class and other support groups, and can help you resolve issues that are causing you stress, sadness, anxiety and fear.
- Bright Light Therapy: Some studies have found that exposure to bright light can suppress the production of melatonin, which may depress mood if levels are too high. Spending some time in the sun may also help.
- Exercise: Studies show exercise is incredibly effective at easing the symptoms of depression.
- Eat a healthy diet. This supports your body from a physical perspective, which can translate to a better mood overall.
- Surround yourself with friends and loved ones. Try not to spend too much time isolated, and feel free to share your feelings with people close to you (open up to your closest loving trusted family members and or “soul mate”).
- Avoid alcohol and drugs, which can actually worsen your symptoms.
Try different forms of stress relief to help you relax, such as meditation, yoga and listening to music.