Every 12 Adolescents Experienced Major Depression

Armen Hareyan's picture
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About 2.1 million teens aged 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year, according to a new nationwide report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. For almost half of the teens, depression drastically reduced their abilities to deal with aspects of their daily lives, the report said.

Overall, 8.5 percent of adolescents, the equivalent of one in every 12, experienced a major depressive episode, but there were striking differences by gender, with 12.7 percent of females and 4.6 percent of males reporting the conditions.

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"Fortunately, depression responds very well to early intervention and treatment," said SAMHSA Administrator Terry Cline, Ph.D. "Parents concerned about their child's mental health should seek help with the same urgency as with any other medical condition. Appropriate mental health care can help their child recover and thrive."

The report defines a major depressive episode as a period of two weeks or longer of depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure, and at least four other symptoms reflecting a change in functioning (for example, problems with sleep, energy, concentration and self-image). This is the definition established by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) of the American Psychiatric Association.

Major Depressive Episode among Youths Aged 12 to 17 in the United States of America: 2006 also reveals the often devastating effect these major depressive episodes can have on adolescents. Nearly half of adolescents experiencing major depression (48.3 percent) report that it severely impaired their ability to function in at least one of four major areas of their everyday lives (home life, school/work, family relationships, and social life). Adolescents reporting the most severe impairment reported that they were unable to carry out normal activities on an average of 58.4 days in the past year.

The report is based on combined data from the 2004 to 2006 National Surveys on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) involving responses from 67,706 people aged 12 to 17 throughout the United States. The survey is based on a scientific random sample of households throughout the United States, and professional field representatives personally visit each household to conduct the survey.

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