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U.S. depression rates more than doubled in last decade

posted Friday, 22 December 2006

Rates of major depression have more than doubled in the USA over the past decade, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism researchers report.

In the decade between 1991-1992 and 2001-2002, the prevalence of major depression among US adults rose from 3.33% to 7.06%, with significant increases in most ethnic groups and all age brackets. But depression rates did not rise significantly among Hispanic men or Hispanic women aged 18-29.

"If the prevalence of depression continues to increase at the pace it has over the past decade, demand for services will increase dramatically in the future and may outstrip the capacity of service delivery systems," cautioned Bridget Grant and colleagues in a study published in the December issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry.

The researchers assessed the rate of past-year major depressive episodes using data from 2 surveys conducted a decade apart and made comparisons between those with and without co-occurring substance use disorders.

Major depressive episodes were substantially higher in people with a co-occurring substance use disorders. However, for most groups increased major depression prevalence could not be explained by increased co-occurring substance use, as rates of depression increased in both patients with and without comorbid substance use disorders.

The researchers suggest environmental changes, such as marital status, household composition, psychiatric and medical comorbidity, plus economic factors may explain the rapid rise.

"It appears that one or more general factors had an impact on rates of major depression among most subgroups of the population. Since such a rapid change cannot be explained by genetic causes, attention in future research should be drawn to environmental changes that have taken place during the past decade," they conclude.

Compton WM, Conway KP, Stinson FS, Grant BF.
Changes in the prevalence of major depression and comorbid substance use disorders in the United States between 1991-1992 and 2001-2002.
Am J Psychiatry. 2006 Dec;163(12):2141-7.   [Abstract]


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