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How Many in U.S. Are Depressed?

CDC Says 9% of Adults Are Depressed at Least Occasionally; 3.4% Suffer From Major Depression
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

Sept. 30, 2010 -- The CDC says that about 9% of Americans report they are depressed at least occasionally, and 3.4% suffer from major depression.

The 9% are people who reported to surveyors that they felt depressed to some degree in the two weeks prior to being questioned. That includes the 3.4% of adults who meet the CDC’s criteria for major depression.

The analysis, part of the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report(MMWR) for Oct. 1, was based on a survey of 235,067 people aged 18 and older in 45 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.

According to the MMWR, estimates for current depression in states and territories in 2006-2008 ranged from a low of 4.8% in North Dakota to 14.8% in Mississippi. People in Kentucky, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and South Dakota did not participate in either the 2006 or the 2008 survey.

Major Depression Increases With Age

The MMWR says the prevalence of major depression increased with age, from 2.8% among people aged 18 to 24 to 4.6% of people aged 46 to 64.

Older people reported less major depression, the CDC says, with only 1.6% of people aged 65 and older reporting depressive episodes.

Among other findings:

  • Women were much more likely than men to report major depression, 4% to 2.7%.
  • 5.9% of people without health insurance reported depressive episodes, compared to 2.9% of people with insurance coverage.
  • 6.6% of people who said they were previously married, or never married, reported some depression, vs. 2.2% of married people.
  • 9.8% of people who were unemployed and 22.2% of those unable to work reported depressive periods, compared with 3% of homemakers and students, 2% of people with jobs, and 1.6% of retirees.
  • 4% of non-Hispanic blacks reported depression, 4% of Hispanics, 4.3% of non-Hispanic people of other races, and 3.1% of non-Hispanic whites.

The report also says that 6.7% of people with less than a high school diploma and 4% of high school graduates reported depressive periods, compared to 2.5% of people with some college education.

Major Depression Among the States

Estimates for major depression ranged from 1.5% in North Dakota to 5.3% in Mississippi and West Virginia.

The CDC says it is not known why depression is greater in women than in men. And differences in depression prevalence among states and territories might result from variations in socioeconomic status, physical disorders, and access to health care treatment.

The investigators said a greater prevalence of depression was found in the Southeastern states.

Here is a list of participating states and territories and their prevalence rates for major depression.

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