Appalling Surge in Depression Cases among U.S. Teens and Young Adults

appalling surge in depression cases among u.s teens and young adults

The cases of major depression are increasing among Americans of all age groups, but the rate is highest among adolescents and young adults, as per the reports from Blue Cross and Blue Shield, a commercial health insurance company.

Depression rates were found to vary according to the state with Rhode Island reported the highest rate of depression at 6.4% while Hawaii showcased the lowest rate at 2.1%.

Since the reports have been published by a commercial health insurance company, they are not fully representative in nature. However, most people in the U.S. are insured under some commercial health insurance plan or other.

These findings are supposed to be an underestimate of the depression cases in the U.S. It only covers 41 million health records and considers only those cases in which, major depression have been diagnosed. Incidentally, many people with reported symptoms of depression remain undiagnosed and/or untreated in the country.


As per Dr. Laurel Williams, chief of psychiatry at Texas Children’s Hospital, people have insurmountable amount of worries about how busy they are. People have no time to socialize at the community level. In the recent times, there has been a significant increase in the amount of time people spend in front of the screen rather than with people.

When there is absence of a real community, people often find themselves being engulfed by the sea of hopelessness. Virtual communities offer no actual support to people in times of need. Kids and young adults are extremely vulnerable and feel rushed and pressured.

While social media can help provide a fake sense of belongingness, it can actually isolate a person from the reality and put tremendous amount of pressure on them to ‘fit in.’ Nevertheless, social media cannot be held solely responsible for the increase in the depression cases. It is actually the overall lifestyle we have adopted in the modern times.

However, Dr. Karyn Horowitz of Bradely Hospital in Rhode Island, believes that social media has made the largest contribution in increasing the incidences of depression among teens and young adults. For some kids, excessive indulgence in video games can become a reason for social isolation, impaired sleep and poor performance in school. It is believed that the deadly combination of increased electronics use and sleep disruptions is mainly responsible for increased chances of developing depression in already vulnerable children.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield analyzed the medical health insurance claims of 41 million health insurance holders and discovered that 4.4% of them had received a diagnosis of depression in 2016 – a 33% hike from 2013. As per the report, 2.6% of adolescents, in the age group pf 12 to 17 years, were diagnosed for major depression in 2016, which was a whopping 63% increase from 2013.

Among young adults, in the age group of 18-34 years, 4.4% people were found to be suffering from major depression as compared to a meagre 3% in 2013. This shows a 47% increase in the depression cases. The highest percentage of people having depression was found in the age group 35-49 years with an alarming 5.8% of the people found to be suffering from the disease in 2016 as compared to 4.6% in 2013.

Another finding of the report is that 29% of the people were found to have 4 or more additional health problems like diabetes and heart diseases along with depression, which can also contribute to depression as per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. [1]

According to CDC, depression can develop due to genetic, environmental, biological and psychological factors. Some of the risk factors of depression include:

  • Experiencing a traumatic or stressful event like sexual abuse, death of a loved one or financial troubles
  • Undergoing a major life change
  • Having a serious medical condition like cancer, chronic pain or stroke
  • Taking certain medicines
  • Using alcohol and drugs
  • Having close relatives with depression

The most troubling part of the report is high depression rates among children and teens. If proper treatment in the form of medication, therapy or both are not made available to them on time, it could pose more threat to them later in life.

As per CDC, 1 in 5 children in the age group of 3 to 17 years suffer from a diagnosable emotional, mental and behavioral disorder every year. According to this estimate, nearly 15 million children suffer from mental disorder but only 20% of them receive proper diagnosis, treatment and care.

The National Institute of Mental Health says that parents should look out for signs of depression in their children, such as irritability, extreme sadness and anxiety. It is very important to identify the signs early, so that precious lives can be saved.