Study shows depression is a growing threat to teens

Teen depressed wThe number of teenagers suffering from major depression has increased significantly in recent years, particularly in girls, according to a recent study by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The study “National Trends in the Prevalence and Treatment of Depression in Adolescents and Young Adults” found that episodes of major depression in a 12-month period for adolescents ages 12-17 increased 37 percent from 2005 to 2014 — from 8.7 percent to 11.3 percent. The trend was more pronounced for girls than boys, with an increase from 13.1 percent in 2004 to 17.3 percent in 2014.

According to the study, adolescent girls may have been exposed to more depressive risk factors such as cyberbullying and higher cellphone use, which has been linked to depression.

“Depression is a sizable and growing deadly threat to our U.S. adolescent population,” Dr. Anne L Glowinski and Giuseppe D'Amelio wrote in a companion commentary to the study, both published in the December issues of “Pediatrics.” “The prioritization of youth depression treatment of our U.S. population health is imperative.”

The number of teens in treatment or counseling did not increase significantly, resulting in a growing number of untreated depressed adolescents, the study concluded. The study also determined that the number of teens receiving prescription medication for depression has increased significantly in recent years. Yet there was no significant trend in the percentage of teens who found the treatment or medication helpful.

According to the study, the prevention, early detection and treatment of depression and other common mental disorders in this age group is a major goal of public mental health initiatives. The results of this study, however, have renewed a call for outreach efforts, especially in school and college health and consulting services, and in pediatric practices, where many of the untreated adolescents and young adults with depression may be detected and managed.

Glowinski and D'Amelio added in their commentary that, “Sadly, even if this important update infuses primary care providers to screen more youth, there will never be enough qualified mental health specialists to take care of the 2.8 million or more adolescents per year, who, if screened and identified, will need treatment and monitoring for depression.”

By Betsy Stein

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