CDC: 1 in 20 Americans Depressed
Work, Home, and Social Life Suffers as a Result of Untreated Depression
Sept. 3, 2008 -- More than one in 20 Americans aged 12 and older are
depressed, according to the latest statistics from the CDC.
Of them, 80% report some level of functional impairment because of their
illness, with 27% reporting that it is extremely difficult to work, get things
done at home, or get along with others because of the symptoms of their
“Reflecting this high rate of functional impairment, almost two-thirds of
the estimated $83 billion that depression cost the United States in the year
2000 resulted from lowered productivity and workplace absenteeism,” say study
authors Laura A. Pratt, PhD, and Debra J. Brody, MPH, both at the CDC. The
authors culled data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey
from 2005-2006, which comprised a nine-item screening tool asking about
depressive symptoms during the past two weeks.
Baby Boomers, Women Hardest Hit by Depression
Rates of depression were higher in women and baby boomers aged 40-59 and
non-Hispanic black people than other demographic groups, the study shows. And
rates of depression were higher among poor people when compared to people with
A treatment gap also exists. Only 29% of depressed individuals said that
they contacted a mental health professional in the past year, and just 39% of
people with severe depression contacted a mental health professional in the
Overall, “these numbers are a bit lower than what we've seen in the past,
but about five or more percent of people are currently depressed -- that’s one
in 20 people who are impaired by an illness,” says Donald Malone, MD, the
section head of adult psychiatric services at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. “If
any other medical illness affected this many people, it would be a national
crisis; but the reality is that depression is looked at differently and we
don’t hear those outcries for better treatment."
The stigma that is still attached to depression may be partially to
“Many people still come in and say ‘depression is not real. It’s a character
flaw and people in my family say snap out of it,’” he says. The bottom line?
“People will not disclose something they feel stigmatized for.”
Exactly how to lift the stigma associated with depression is a work in
progress, he says.
“Continuing to get the word out that this is an illness and something that
is treatable with psychotherapy and medications is helpful,” he says.
“Depression is something real, not a character flaw or just who you are. It’s
an illness and we can make a difference.”
Another tactic, he says, is to approach employers and let them know that one
of 20 people working for them is not very productive because he or she is
suffering from a treatable illness. This may encourage employers to develop
programs that screen for and encourage treatment for depression.