About 1 in 13 US residents have symptoms of moderate or severe depression, according to a recent data release from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. But not everyone is at equal risk.
Women and people between the ages of 40 and 59 are at highest risk, along with people living below the poverty line, who are nearly 2.5 times more likely to be depressed (15%) than those living above it (6.2%). The new data release includes survey responses from 2009-2012.
Here’s how the prevalence of depression breaks down among men, women, and different age groups — people over 60, especially men that age, are the least likely to be depressed:
Women 40-59 had the highest rate of depression: 12.3%.
The starkest differences in rates of depression, however, were among people of different classes:
The CDC does not speculate about what might be behind this, but other studies have investigated this phenomenon.
One review of the research on depression in low-income women noted that this high-risk group “may have the same biological vulnerability for depression as other women, but are more likely to suffer from depression as a result of elevated exposure to stressors.” Such stressors and challenges may include “poor education, poor labour circumstances and unemployment, financial strain, inadequate housing, or neighbourhood violence,” all of which can contribute to “psychological distress.”
In the CDC survey, respondents are counted as depressed if they have shown “moderate or severe depressive symptoms in the past two weeks.” Such symptoms include fatigue, loss of interest in pleasurable activities, feelings of sadness, changes in appetite, sleep problems, feelings of worthlessness, and problems with memory and concentration.
Depression can affect everyone differently, but during depressive episodes, the Mayo Clinic notes, “symptoms occur most of the day, nearly every day” — not just in passing.
Just over a third of the severely depressed people in the CDC survey reported contact with a mental health professional during the past year, showing that this widespread problem is grossly undertreated. Even fewer of those with “moderate” or “mild” depression had sought help.
If you think you might be depressed, here are some suggestions on how to find a licensed therapist.
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