May 17, 2023 – Depression rates among U.S. adults have reached the highest levels ever recorded since the national public opinion firm Gallup started tracking the mental illness in 2015.
In a survey, 29% of adults said they had been diagnosed with depression during their lifetime, and 18% said they currently have depression or are being treated for it. Those rates are up from the baseline 2015 rates of 20% of people ever having depression and 11% of people with a current diagnosis.
Depression had been steadily rising before the pandemic, and the Gallup analysts wrote that “social isolation, loneliness, fear of infection, psychological exhaustion (particularly among front-line responders such as health care workers), elevated substance abuse and disruptions in mental health services have all likely played a role” in the increase.
“The fact that Americans are more depressed and struggling after this time of incredible stress and isolation is perhaps not surprising,” American Psychiatric Association president Rebecca Brendel, MD, told CNN. “There are lingering effects on our health, especially our mental health, from the past 3 years that disrupted everything we knew.”
The new estimates are based on online survey responses collected in February from 5,167 adults in the U.S. who answered the questions:
- Has a doctor or nurse ever told you that you have depression?
- Do you currently have or are you currently being treated for depression?
Depression, which is also called major depressive disorder, is a treatable illness that negatively impacts how someone feels, thinks, and acts. The symptoms can be both emotional (such as sadness or loss of interest in activities) and physical (such as fatigue or slowed movements or speech).
The latest study found that depression rates increased the most among women, young adults, Black people, and Hispanic people. For the first time, more Black and Hispanic people than White people reported ever being diagnosed with depression. The lifetime depression rate among Black people was 34%, compared to 31% for Hispanic people and 29% for White people.
The rate of lifetime depression among women jumped 10 percentage points in the past 5 years, to 37%, in February, the survey results showed. About 1 in 4 women said they currently had depression or were being treated for it, up 6 percentage points compared to 5 years ago.
When responses were analyzed by age, those 18 to 44 years old were the most likely to report ever being diagnosed with depression or currently having the illness. About one-third of younger adults have ever been diagnosed, and more than 1 in 5 said they currently have depression.
Brendel said awareness and reduced stigma could be adding to the rising rates of depression.
“We’re making it easier to talk about mental health and looking at it as part of our overall wellness, just like physical health,” she said. “People are aware of depression, and people are seeking help for it.”
If you or someone you know needs help, dial 988 for support from the national Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. It’s free, confidential, and available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can also visit 988lifeline.org and choose the chat feature.