Depression is on the rise among American teenagers, and a closer look at the data reveals a significant gender disparity, with girls being nearly three times more likely than boys to experience depressive episodes. A recent Pew Research Center analysis of the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health highlights the concerning trends in teenage depression.
In 2017, approximately 13% of U.S. teenagers aged 12 to 17, or 3.2 million individuals, reported having faced at least one major depressive episode in the past year. This marks a significant increase from 2007 when 8% (2 million) of teenagers reported the same.
What’s particularly alarming is that teenage girls, in particular, have been disproportionately affected by this surge in depression. In 2017, nearly 2.4 million, or one in five teenage girls, experienced at least one major depressive episode in the past year. In contrast, 7% of teenage boys, totaling 845,000, faced similar episodes.
The data reveals an overall 59% increase in the number of teenagers grappling with depression between 2007 and 2017. Notably, the growth rate was faster for teenage girls, with a 66% increase, compared to boys, who saw a 44% rise.
While teenage girls are more likely to grapple with depression, they are also more likely to seek treatment. Among teenage girls who recently experienced depressive episodes, 45% received treatment, either by consulting a professional or through medication. In comparison, 33% of teen boys with recent depressive episodes received treatment.
The trends in adult depression are also worth noting. The number of adults experiencing depression increased from 14.8 million in 2007 to 17.3 million in 2017. However, the overall share of adults affected remained constant at 7%. A gender disparity exists in the experiences of adult depression, with 9% of women and 5% of men reporting depression. Interestingly, a higher percentage of adults with depression received treatment, with approximately 67% seeking help. Women, in particular, were more likely to receive treatment, with 72% seeking help compared to 58% of men.
The concerns and pressures faced by teenagers are also evident in a Pew Research Center survey conducted in 2018. A significant majority of U.S. teens, seven in ten, identified anxiety and depression as a major problem among people their age in their communities, with an additional 26% considering it a minor issue. Moreover, about 29% of teens disclosed feeling tense or nervous about their day every or almost every day, while 45% admitted to feeling tense or nervous at times. Notably, more teen girls (36%) reported feeling this way every day or almost every day compared to teen boys (23%).
Experts attribute the surge in teen depression to a variety of factors, including academic and social pressures. Sixty-one percent of teens felt immense pressure to excel academically, while around 29% reported feeling pressured to conform to societal beauty standards, and 28% expressed the need to fit in socially.
In conclusion, the alarming increase in teenage depression in America, particularly among girls, demands urgent attention. The complex interplay of social, academic, and gender-related factors highlights the need for comprehensive mental health support and awareness programs to address this growing crisis and ensure a brighter future for the nation’s youth.