01/03/2024

Depression rates in the United States are skyrocketing, particularly among young adults and women, a new survey shows.

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The poll, released Wednesday by Gallup, found that 29 percent of U.S. adults report having been diagnosed with depression at some point in their lives, up from 19.6 percent in 2015.

Meanwhile, 17.8% of people aged 18 and over currently have or are currently being treated for depression, up from 10.5% in 2015.

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According to Gallup, both rates are the highest the analyst firm has ever seen since it began tracking rates of depression.

“I think the results are amazing,” Dan Witters, research director at Gallup National Health and Well-Being, told ABC News. “The disproportionate way some groups have been affected by this makes sense to me based on what we know about other research, and those sharp increases in rates of depression among those adults under 30, even women, Black and Hispanic, are really eye-popping.”

While the COVID-19 pandemic can’t be entirely blamed for the rate hike, it was certainly a factor, Witters said.

“Both of these rates had risen somewhat in the years before the pandemic,” he said. “And you don’t want to go too far in front of your skis to blame it all on the pandemic.”

He continued, “There are many other big factors out there that could be relevant to these rising rates that we’ve measured, but the pandemic is a big one and indeed rates have risen significantly in the years since COVID hit.”

More than 5,100 adults were surveyed in all 50 states and the District of Columbia during the last week of February 2023. The findings are part of the larger, ongoing Gallup National Health and Well-Being Index, which seeks to track and understand the factors that drive well-being.

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The results showed that rates are rising fastest among some groups, especially young adults and women.

Rates of depression for women during their lifetime rose from 26.2% in 2017 to 36.7% in 2023. Rates for those with current depression rose from 17.6% to 23.8% over the same period.

In comparison, men with depression in their lifetime saw a smaller increase from 17.7% in 2017 to 20.4% in 2023. Current rates of depression have increased from 9.3% to 11.3%.

Witters said women have historically had higher rates of depression than men. COVID, however, may have led to an increase in these rates due to women being disproportionately forced out of the workforce to care for children at home and the fact that they make up a higher proportion of health care workers at the forefront.

Breakdowns by age showed that one-third of young adults aged 18-29 reported having been diagnosed with depression at some point in their lives, up from 20.4 percent in 2017. Additionally, 24 6% said they currently suffer from depression, up from 13% in 2017.

Witters pointed to other research showing a growing mental health crisis among young people in the United States

“Obviously social media predates 2017, but social media has had the effect on a lot of kids where they feel left out, they feel compelled to look at social media and they see people enjoying themselves and not a part of it,” he he said. “They can be ostracized through social media.”

Adults aged 65 and older had the smallest increase for depression and were the only group who saw a decrease in rates of current depression since 2021.

When it came to breakdowns by race/ethnicity, the results showed that the rates for black and Hispanic adults are increasing about twice the rate for white adults.

The percentage of Black adults diagnosed with depression at some point in their lives rose from 20.1% to 34.4% between 2017 and 2023. For Hispanic adults, the percentage rose from 18.4% to 31.3% in the same period.

Comparatively, white adults saw their rates rise from 22.3% in 2017 to 29% in 2023.

“For a long time, white America and white adults have been reporting a clinical diagnosis of depression at rates that exceed black and Hispanic adults,” Witters said. “These large increases … really show the strain Black and Hispanic Americans have been under since 2017.”

Black and Hispanic Americans were more likely to lose their jobs in the early days of the pandemic, he said, and events like the death of George Floyd in May 2020 may have also contributed to the depression.

“When the pandemic first hit negative emotional experiences in all adults [tracked by Gallup] like the sadness and the anger went up a little bit, but they didn’t change much,” Witters said. “Fast forward a couple of months and you get to the latter part of May and in June, the anger and the sadness went up more than 10 percentage points”.

Dr. Amanda Kravitz of ABC News contributed to this report.

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