This study examined national trends in 12-month prevalence of major depressive episodes (MDEs) in adolescents and young adults overall and in different sociodemographic groups, as well as trends in depression treatment between 2005 and 2014.
Data were drawn from the National Surveys on Drug Use and Health for 2005 to 2014, which are annual cross-sectional surveys of the US general population. Participants included 172 495 adolescents aged 12 to 17 and 178 755 adults aged 18 to 25. Time trends in 12-month prevalence of MDEs were examined overall and in different subgroups, as were time trends in the use of treatment services.
The 12-month prevalence of MDEs increased from 8.7% in 2005 to 11.3% in 2014 in adolescents and from 8.8% to 9.6% in young adults (both P < .001). The increase was larger and statistically significant only in the age range of 12 to 20 years. The trends remained significant after adjustment for substance use disorders and sociodemographic factors. Mental health care contacts overall did not change over time; however, the use of specialty mental health providers increased in adolescents and young adults, and the use of prescription medications and inpatient hospitalizations increased in adolescents.
The prevalence of depression in adolescents and young adults has increased in recent years. In the context of little change in mental health treatments, trends in prevalence translate into a growing number of young people with untreated depression. The findings call for renewed efforts to expand service capacity to best meet the mental health care needs of this age group.