More than eight percent of U.S. teenagers have said they’ve suffered from symptoms consistent with a major depressive episode in the past year according to government researchers.
The report published by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) suggests that over 2.1 million teens aged 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year.
But there were “striking differences” by sex, with 12.7 percent of girls and 4.6 percent of boys affected.
Depression is the leading cause of suicide, which in turn is the third-leading cause of death for 15- to 24-year-olds in the United States.
For almost half of the teens, depression drastically reduced their abilities to deal with aspects of their daily lives, the report said.
Overall, 8.5 percent of adolescents, the equivalent of one in every 12, experienced a major depressive episode.
“Fortunately, depression responds very well to early intervention and treatment,” said SAMHSA Administrator Terry Cline, Ph.D. “Parents concerned about their child’s mental health should seek help with the same urgency as with any other medical condition. Appropriate mental health care can help their child recover and thrive.”
The report is based on combined data from the 2004 to 2006 National Surveys on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) involving responses from 67,706 people aged 12 to 17 throughout the United States. The survey is based on a scientific random sample of households throughout the United States, and professional field representatives personally visit each household to conduct the survey.
The survey uses the same symptom criteria that defines a depressive episode by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the official diagnostic manual of mental disorders. However, because the survey was administered by survey-takers, not mental health professionals trained in diagnostics, it is likely an over-representation of the actual number.
The government report, Major Depressive Episode among Youths Aged 12 to 17 in the United States of America: 2004-2006, also reveals the often devastating effect these major depressive episodes can have on adolescents.
Nearly half of adolescents experiencing major depression (48.3 percent) report that it severely impaired their ability to function in at least one of four major areas of their everyday lives (home life, school/work, family relationships, and social life).
Adolescents reporting the most severe impairment said that they were unable to carry out normal activities on an average of over 58 days in the past year.
“Fortunately, depression responds very well to early intervention and treatment,” SAMHSA Administrator Terry Cline said in a statement.
“Parents concerned about their child’s mental health should seek help with the same urgency as with any other medical condition. Appropriate mental health care can help their child recover and thrive.”