A new study suggests that there has been a significant increase in depression among teenagers and young adults in the past decade, most notably among teenage girls, and many are not receiving treatment. “Although a recent federal task force recommended screening for depression in young people 12 to 18 years of age, screening is far from universal,” said Dr. Mark Olfson, professor of psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center and co-author of the study published in the journal Pediatrics. “The new study highlights that most adolescents with depression do not receive treatment for their symptoms and underscores the need for increased attention to this condition.”Looking at data from the National Surveys on Drug Use and Health on about 172,495 adolescents (12-17) and 178,755 young adults (18-25), researchers found that the prevalence of major depressive episodes each year among girls rose from 13 percent in 2005 to 17 percent in 2014, while this same number rose from only 4 percent to about 6 percent for the boys.
While Olfson said he could not determine the exact reasons for the change, he hypothesized that cyberbullying, which has been linked to depression and is more likely to affect girls, could play a role. A study from 2014 also suggests that girls are confronted with more interpersonal stress (fighting with friends or family), which can lead to depressive moods. In an editorial accompanying the new study, the authors said investigating and treating youth depression should be prioritized in the United States. “The causes behind a rise in adolescent depression should be investigated scientifically,” they wrote. “The other problem, that of ever-increasing untreated youth depression, concerns all of us at a time when suicide is now the second leading cause of death for adolescents aged 15 to 19 years,” adding that “depression is a sizable and growing deadly threat to our U.S. adolescent population.”
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