Depression Statistics You Need To Know

With the COVID-19 pandemic resulting in a host of mental health problems¹ across the US, including stresses related to job loss and illness, depression is on the rise. Facing such uncertainty, many people are struggling and in need of support. Whether you or a loved one are in difficult circumstances and are experiencing symptoms of depression, it is important to understand the statistics around what depression is and its effects.

Types of depression

There is a range of categories of depression. Understanding these categories can help patients and their loved ones develop a better understanding of the symptoms and how to treat them.

Major depressive disorder

Major depressive disorder is the leading cause of disability² in the US for people ranging from 15 to 44, affecting an estimated 16.1 million people, 6.7% of the US population, every year.

Major depressive disorder³ has a host of symptoms. More than feeling sad, major depressive disorder can sap a person’s energy levels and cause them to lose interest in activities they once enjoyed, neglect day-to-day activities, and increase outbursts and frustration. A person with major depressive disorder may appear to think, speak, or move more slowly, or they may feel restless and agitated, depending on how depression affects them.

Persistent depressive disorder

Persistent depressive disorder affects around 1.5%⁴ of the US population. In order to meet the criteria for a diagnosis, a person must have symptoms that persist for at least two years. In addition to the feelings associated with major depressive disorder, symptoms of persistent depressive disorder can be long-term feelings of hopelessness or overall low self-esteem. Many patients with persistent depressive disorder suffer from disrupted neurotransmitters in their brain, including serotonin, epinephrine, norepinephrine, and glutamate.

Bipolar disorder

Bipolar disorder⁵ causes extreme mood swings between manic highs and extreme lows, which usually present as depression. During low periods, bipolar patients may have little to no energy, struggle to think clearly or feel hopeless. They may also lose enjoyment in areas of their lives.

Postpartum depression (PPD)

After giving birth, many women suffer from depression that is directly linked to postpartum hormones. Postpartum depression (PPD) typically starts to rear its head within six weeks after delivery. For some women, however, it may show up much later. In fact, women can experience symptoms of postpartum depression⁶ up to eighteen months after delivery. Symptoms may also linger for longer if the woman does not receive treatment. PPD is reported to affect around 15% of new mothers⁷.

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)

Seasonal affective disorder⁸ (SAD) usually sets in during the fall and winter months. As the nights grow longer and the days become shorter, many people suffer from increased moodiness or depression. SAD impacts between 5% and 3% of the general population⁹, but it may occur more commonly in patients with other mental health disorders, including major depressive disorder.

How common is depression?

An estimated 16.1 million adults in the US¹⁰, amounting to 6.7% of the US population, are reported to suffer at least one major depressive episode each year.

There are some differences in depression rates between races. In one study¹¹, the authors noted that in the US, approximately 10.8% of Hispanic adults suffered from depression, compared to 8,9% of African American adults and 7.8% of White adults.

80% of those who suffer from depression¹² find that their symptoms impact their ability to function on a day-to-day basis. 

Gender differences in depression

According to the 2010 National Health Interview Survey, 9% of men¹³ suffered from daily feelings of depression or anxiety. Around 30.6% of men¹⁴ admitted to suffering depression at some point in their lives. However, there are gender differences in how depression presents in men compared to women. Depressed men¹⁵ are more likely to engage in risk-taking behaviors or to suffer from extreme bouts of rage, whereas women are more likely to show the general lethargy typically attributed to depression. When this behavioral scale is used to measure depression, men may suffer from higher rates of depression than women.

The suicide rate remains around four times higher in men than in women. While women are more likely to attempt suicide, men are more likely to succeed in their attempts. Suicide attempts frequently occur due to depression and resulting feelings of hopelessness.

By contrast, around 10% of women suffer from depression on a daily basis.¹⁶ Around 1 in 8 women¹⁷ will develop some type of clinical depression in their lifetimes, most often between the ages of 25 and 44.

Depression in children and teens

In addition to rising depression rates among adults, rates also continue to increase among children and teens. Around 3.2% of children aged between 3 and 17¹⁸ had been diagnosed with depression. By 2011-2012, children aged between 6 and 17 had an 8.4% chance of being diagnosed with depression or anxiety.

Depression rates have risen significantly¹⁹ during the pandemic, with as many as 25.2% of children and adolescents potentially showing signs of clinically elevated depression. This rate has worsened the longer the pandemic has continued. Depression has been found to be more common in older children and adolescents as well as females than in other demographics. Around 25% of high school students²⁰ self-reported worsened emotional health during the pandemic, while approximately 20% of parents with children between 5 and 12 observed that their children showed signs of worsening mental and emotional health during this time.

LGBTQI+ youth are also more likely to suffer from anxiety and depression than other demographics: around 67% reported experiencing some type of depression throughout the pandemic, and around 48% admitted to thoughts of suicide.

Depression in the US has become an epidemic. Rates of depression were on the rise prior to the pandemic, but the pandemic has caused rates to significantly increase. However, with increased societal awareness of mental health issues in recent years, particularly during the pandemic, it can be easier to identify mental health challenges, diagnose disorders, and seek treatment when needed.

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