Depression rates for teen girls spike in an age of cyber bullying

Depression rates for teen girls spike in an age of cyber bullying
Photo: The Straits Times

Depression is rising among young adults and adolescents in the US, with teenage girls in particular growing more depressed than boys, researchers found.

At the same time, mental health care isn't expanding to meet the challenge, resulting in a growing pool of young people with untreated depression, according to a study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics.

The findings suggest "fairly impressive increases in depression" and "should be of concern to parents, teachers, and pediatricians," said Mark Olfson, a professor of psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center and a co-author of the study.

"These trends support a renewed focus on outreach, early detection and intervention for depression in young people," he told Mashable.

Olfson said more research is needed to understand why young people are increasingly depressed.

But our tendency to replace smartphones and social media with face-to-face interactions might be playing a role, along with economic stress on families and shifting educational and job opportunities, he said.

Every year, about 1 in 11 teenagers and young adults have a major depressive episode. The prevalence of these episodes has increased in the past decade, especially among 12-to-20-year-olds, researchers found.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death for that age group, after homicide, according to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

For Monday's study, Olfson and his co-authors analysed data on major depression and depression treatment in the National Surveys on Drug Use and Health for the years 2005-2014.

They looked at the results from over 172,000 teenagers, ages 12 to 17, and nearly 179,000 young adults, ages 18 to 25.

Among girls, the prevalence of major depressive episodes over a 12-month period rose from about 13 per cent in 2005 to about 17 per cent in 2014, according to the study.


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