Depression is a mental health condition that affects millions of people worldwide. Here are some key facts and statistics to help you understand depression.

Depression causes feelings of intense sadness and hopelessness. Some people lose interest in activities they once enjoyed. Others feel so weighed down by it that even getting out of bed in the morning feels overwhelming.

Unlike temporary feelings of sadness, the symptoms of depression last for two or more weeks. Depression can end up affecting your career, relationships, sleep, and even eating habits.

Whether you’ve just been diagnosed or have a feeling you might have depression, it can help to know that you’re not alone in having these feelings. In this article, we look at some facts about depression, including what it is, who gets it, and how to get help.

1. Symptoms of depression can show up in many ways

Depression is not a one-size-fits-all mental health disorder. The different types of “depressive disorder,” as listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.) include:

  • Major depressive disorder. This type is also known as major depression or clinical depression.
  • Dysthymia. Otherwise known as persistent depressive disorder, this condition drags on for over two years.
  • Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). PMDD causes symptoms of depression, as well as irritability and anxiety, before your menstrual period.

In addition, major depression can arise in various ways. The subtypes of major depressive disorder include:

  • Depressive psychosis. This condition combines severe depression with hallucinations or delusions.
  • Atypical depression. With this kind of depression, people feel better for short periods before it returns.
  • Seasonal affective disorder. This is believed to be caused by changes in circadian rhythm due to the shorter days in winter seasons.
  • Postpartum depression. Also called peripartum depression, this occurs during pregnancy or within a year of giving birth.

Although not listed as “depressive disorders” in the DSM-5, the symptoms of depression also show up in a number of other mental health conditions, including:

  • Bipolar disorder. This is characterized by extreme shifts in mood, such as periods of mania and periods of depression.
  • Adjustment disorder. This is also known as situational depression, and it begins during a stressful life event.

2. Major depression is one of the leading causes of disability worldwide

It affects around 264 million people globally and about 17.3 million adults in the United States. That’s around 7.1% of all U.S. adults.

3. It costs the U.S. economy billions of dollars each year

According to a 2015 study, depression cost the U.S. economy around $210.5 billion in 2010.

The cost of major depressive disorder shows up in many ways. The authors estimate that 50% of this cost is linked to workplace costs, such as absentee days from work and loss of productivity when at work.

This is a substantial increase (21.7%) from its estimated economic cost of $173.2 billion in 2005.

It’s more important than ever to look after your employees’ mental health and provide genuine support for everyone. You never know who on your team might be struggling.

4. Major depression can affect children, too

In the United States, depression is estimated to affect about 1.9 million American children between the ages of 3 and 17 years.

In children, signs of depression could include anxiety, irritability, a refusal to go to school, clinging to parents, worrying about the possibility of a parent dying, or frequent attempts to pretend to be sick.

In teenagers, warning signs include frustration, anxiety, eating disorders, excessive sleepiness, and increased appetite.

5. Major depression is more common in females than in males

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 8.7% of adult females in the U.S. have experienced a major depressive episode compared to 5.3% of males.

6. It tends to affect people in early adulthood the most

Rates of depression are highest among adults between the ages of 18 to 25 years.

7. Depression affects people of different ethnicities differently

According to data from 2017, rates of depressive episodes were highest in adults who reported two or more races.

The report says that the past year prevalence of a major depressive episode among U.S. adults was as follows:

  • two or more races: 11.3%
  • American Indian or Alaskan native: 8%
  • white: 7.9%
  • Hispanic: 5.4%
  • Black: 5.4%
  • native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander: 4.7%
  • Asian: 4.4%

8. Depression affects LGBTQ+ people at higher rates than heterosexual people

In fact, it’s estimated that LGBTQ+ individuals are more than twice as likely as heterosexual people to experience depression, anxiety, and substance misuse.

Transgender youths have a two- to three-times greater risk of experiencing depression, suicidality, and anxiety disorders.

LGBTQ+ individuals are at higher risk for suicidal behavior. According to a Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report from 2016, 42.8% of gay, lesbian, or bisexual students had seriously considered suicide in the year before the survey, compared with 14.8% of heterosexual students.

And, based on new data, the pandemic has led to an increase in suicidal ideation among young LGBTQ+ individuals.

9. The pandemic has led to a rise in depression rates

Approximately 19% of people in the U.S. are living with a mental health condition as of September 2020, which reflects a rise in 1.5 million cases since last year.

Among those, over half a million people reported signs of depression or anxiety.

Just under 11 million people reported thoughts of suicide last year — an increase of more than 460,000 cases.

10. Approximately 11% of people with a mental illness, such as depression, are uninsured

The number of uninsured people with mental illness increased in 2020 for the first time since the passing of the Affordable Care Act. These are the first numbers to reflect the impact of the Trump administration.

11. Major depression often goes underdiagnosed and untreated

This is especially true among minority populations. According to findings from a recent study, this is in part because these populations are less likely to report symptoms to their healthcare professionals. However, it’s also because many healthcare teams don’t recognize the signs as well as they should.

12. Depression causes different symptoms in different people

Someone who is depressed may experience any number of the following symptoms for at least two weeks:

  • persistent feelings of sadness
  • hopelessness
  • lack of interest in activities once enjoyed
  • difficulty concentrating
  • difficulty taking care of yourself
  • irritability
  • a change in sleep patterns
  • a change in appetite
  • increased anxiety
  • body aches
  • thoughts of self-harm or suicide

13. Utah ranked as having the highest percentage of adults with thoughts of suicide in 2020

The state also ranked last among all 50 states in overall mental health.

14. In middle-aged people and older adults, depression is likely to occur alongside other serious illnesses

These illnesses can include diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and Parkinson’s disease.

Specifically, research indicates that as many as 25% of people with cancer, 10% to 27% of people who’ve had a stroke, 50% of people with Parkinson’s disease, and 1 in 3 heart attack survivors experience depression.

According to a 2019 study, 39% of people with HIV experience depression. This is a serious concern because depression is associated with higher HIV viral loads, lower CD4 counts, and reduced adherence to antiretroviral therapy.

15. In adults, depression raises the risk of physical illnesses, too

For example, adults with depression have a 64% higher chance of developing coronary artery disease.

16. Doctors still don’t know exactly what causes depression

Research suggests that it could have to do with brain structure or biochemistry. It’s also more likely if you have certain risk factors, including:

  • having a family history of depression
  • going through a period of high stress, major life changes, or trauma
  • having certain illnesses
  • taking certain medications
  • experiencing abuse, violence, poverty, or other forms of trauma

17. Depression can increase your chances of drinking or using substances

According to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America, around 20% of people with anxiety or a mental health condition such as depression also have an alcohol use disorder or other substance disorder.

18. Many people with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) also live with depression

According to a study in an Australian population, around 27% of people with PCOS reported depression.

They also reported higher rates of anxiety and stress than people without PCOS. The researchers suggested that higher levels of stress might contribute to these feelings of depression and anxiety.

19. You can reduce your feelings of depression with certain lifestyle changes.

According to research, beneficial changes include healthy eating, regular physical exercise, and getting enough sleep.

It can be difficult to take time for self-care when you’re experiencing depression, so it’s okay to start small. Even a short walk around the block can help clear some of that brain fog.

20. With proper diagnosis, depression is highly treatable

The sooner it is diagnosed, the more effective that treatment can be.

According to a 2012 study, up to 70% of people who take antidepressants for depression show signs of improvement.

That number may be higher for those whose treatment also involves psychotherapy, support groups, or a combination of different treatments.

Your primary care physician can help diagnose your depression if you tell them about your symptoms. They’ll run a series of tests to make sure your symptoms aren’t caused by an underlying condition, then they’ll refer you to a mental health professional who can talk with you in more detail.

Once you receive a diagnosis, your mental health professional will discuss different treatment options with you. Ultimately, what that treatment looks like will vary from person to person, but it could involve:

  • antidepressant medication
  • psychotherapy
  • self-care
  • brain stimulation therapy

Most treatments for depression will involve some combination of treatments.

If your depression is severe, staying in the hospital is another treatment option. This is often beneficial where depression involves suicidal ideation, significant self-harm, or an inability to care for your own needs.

If you think you might have depression, the first step toward feeling better is often to talk with a doctor or mental health professional. They can talk with you about your individual experiences and suggest the most appropriate treatments and self-care strategies.

You can also call the SAMHSA’s National Helpline, a free and confidential referral and information service, at 800-622-HELP.

The state and county where you live might also have mental health services in your area. If you’re a student, most universities offer treatment too.

If you are in crisis or feel suicidal, remember that there is help available 24/7: