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America's Children in Brief: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2020

Adolescent Depression

Depression has a significant impact on adolescent development and well-being.49 Adolescent depression can adversely affect school and work performance, impair peer and family relationships, and exacerbate the severity of other health conditions such as asthma and obesity.50, 51, 52 Depressive episodes often persist, recur, or continue into adulthood.53 Youth who have had a major depressive episode (MDE) in the past year are at a greater risk for suicide and are more likely than other youth to initiate alcohol and other drug use, experience concurrent substance use disorders, and smoke daily.43, 54, 55

Figure 19 Percentage of youth ages 12–17 who experienced a major depressive episode (MDE) in the past year by gender and metropolitan status, 2018
Figure 19 Percentage of youth ages 12–17 who experienced a major depressive episode (MDE) in the past year by gender and metropolitan status, 2018

NOTE: MDE is defined as a period of at least 2 weeks when a person experienced a depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure in daily activities plus at least four additional symptoms of depression (such as problems with sleep, eating, energy, concentration, and feelings of self-worth) as described in the fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. The U.S. Office of Management and Budget classifies counties as within a metropolitan or a micropolitan statistical area. The remaining counties are not classified and are considered rural in this report. Rural counties may include small urban areas, as well as completely rural areas. Nonmetropolitan counties include counties in micropolitan statistical and rural areas.

SOURCE: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

  • In 2018, 14% of the population ages 12–17 had at least one MDE during the past year, which did not differ by metropolitan status (14% in metropolitan areas, 15% in micropolitan areas, and 13% in rural areas).
  • Among youth ages 12–17 in 2018, however, the prevalence of MDE was more than twice as high among females (22% in metropolitan areas, 22% in micropolitan areas, and 21% in rural areas) as among males (8% in metropolitan areas, 8% in micropolitan areas, and 7% in rural areas).

Figure 20 Percentage of those receiving treatment for depression among youth ages 12–17 with at least one major depressive episode (MDE) in the past year by metropolitan status, 2018
Figure 20 Percentage of those receiving treatment for depression among youth ages 12–17 with at least one major depressive episode (MDE) in the past year by metropolitan status, 2018

NOTE: MDE is defined as a period of at least 2 weeks when a person experienced a depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure in daily activities plus at least four additional symptoms of depression (such as problems with sleep, eating, energy, concentration, and feelings of self-worth) as described in the fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. The U.S. Office of Management and Budget classifies counties as within a metropolitan or a micropolitan statistical area. The remaining counties are not classified and are considered rural in this report. Rural counties may include small urban areas, as well as completely rural areas. Nonmetropolitan counties include counties in micropolitan statistical and rural areas.

SOURCE: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

  • The percentage of youth with at least one MDE in the past year receiving treatment for depression was 41% in 2018, which did not differ by metropolitan status (41% in metropolitan areas, 50% in micropolitan areas, and 40% in rural areas).

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49 Mojtabai, R., Olfson, M., & Han, B. (2016). National trends in the prevalence and treatment of depression in adolescents and young adults. Pediatrics, 138(6), e20161878. https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2016-1878

50 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2008). The NSDUH report: Major depressive episode among youths aged 12 to 17 in the United States: 2004 to 2006. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Office of Applied Studies. Retrieved from https://ntrl.ntis.gov/NTRL/dashboard/searchResults/titleDetail/PB2009115665.xhtml

51 Van Lieshout, R. J., & MacQueen, G. (2008). Psychological factors in asthma. Allergy, Asthma and Clinical Immunology, 4(1), 12–28. https://doi.org/10.1186/1710-1492-4-1-12

52 Goodman, E., & Whitaker, R. C. (2007). A prospective study of the role of depression in the development and persistence of adolescent obesity. Pediatrics, 110(3), 497–504. https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.110.3.497

53 Weissman, M. M., Wolk, S., Goldstein, R. B., Moreau, D., Adams, P., Greenwald, S., . . . Wickr maratne, P. (1999). Depressed adolescents grown up. Journal of the American Medical Association, 281(13), 1701–1713.

54 Shaffer, D., Gould, M. S., Fisher, P., Trautman, P., Moreau, D., Kleinman, M., & Flory, M. (1996). Psychiatric diagnosis in child and adolescent suicide. Archives of General Psychiatry, 53, 339–348. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1001/archpsyc.1996.01830040075012

55 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2007). The NSDUH report: Depression and the initiation of alcohol and other drug use among youths aged 12 to 17. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Office of Applied Studies.