Major depressive disorder, also just known as depression, is a mental health disorder that negatively impacts how a person thinks, feels, and acts. It can lead to a variety of emotional, mental, and physical problems and can decrease a person’s ability to function in their everyday life at home and work and doing activities once enjoyed. Depression is common and, fortunately treatable.
Symptoms of depression include, but are not limited to:
- A depressed mood or feeling of sadness
- Loss of interest in activities
- Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
- Feeling guilty or worthless
- Significant changes in appetite and weight (either gain or loss)
- Slowed movements and speech
- Difficulty thinking or concentrating
- Increasingly engaging in repetitive, purposeless tasks such as pacing
- Suicidal thoughts
Because other medical conditions symptoms can mimic depression symptoms, it is important to rule out general medical causes first. Additionally, symptoms must last at least two weeks for a depression diagnosis. Depression can be confused with grief or sadness because they share similar symptoms; however, these are not medical conditions and typically come in waves.
Depression can affect anyone, especially those with risk factors: biochemistry (chemical composition of the brain), genetics (depression can run in families), personality (people with low self-esteem, who are pessimistic, or who are easily overwhelmed are more likely to experience depression), and environmental factors (violence, neglect, abuse, or poverty can make some people more vulnerable to depression). Fortunately, depression is one of the most treatable mental disorders with 80-90% of depression patients eventually responding well to treatment. Depression is typically treated with medication, psychotherapy (“talk therapy”), and/or electroconvulsive therapy.
Depression Prevalence in the U.S.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, an estimated 17.3 million adults in the United States had at least one major depressive episode in 2017 based on the most recent data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). Even more people suffer from seasonal affective disorder.
According to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), depression in the U.S. is lower among non-Hispanic Asian adults, compared to Hispanic, non-Hispanic black, or non-Hispanic white adults. Additionally, 15.8% of adults from families living below the poverty line have depression, and the prevalence decreased among adults as family income levels increased.
About 65% of those diagnosed with depression received treatment, with 44% receiving combine care by a health professional and medication. 15% of those with major depression received treatment from a health professional only and 6% received mediation treatment only. 35% of those who have major depression did not receive treatment. About 50% of those diagnosed with depression in the U.S. are also diagnosed with anxiety.
A study by Quote Wizard analyzed CDC data from 2014 to 2018 to find the prevalence of depression in all 50 states. Rankings presented are based on the five-year average in each state.
States with the Highest Depression Rates
Oregon has the highest rate of depression in the United States at 25.20%. Between 2014 and 2018, Oregon saw a 9.17% increased in depression rates. Oregon overall has the worst ranking among states for mental illness and substance abuse, with higher rates of mental illness for adults and lower access to care.
2. West Virginia
West Virginia has the second-highest depression rate in the United States of 24.62%. From 2014 to 2018, the depression rate in West Virginia reportedly increased by 12.71%. In a rural state such as West Virginia, mental health services are not adequate and many people go untreated for long periods or may never seek treatment. Factors contributing to the high depression rate in West Virginia include a high rate of people without health insurance and a low college degree attainment rate, two factors that are believed to be linked with higher depression rates.
Maine’s depression rate is the third-highest in the United States at 23.52%. The depression rate fell 3.80% between 2014 and 2018. Fortunately, unlike other states with high depression rates, Maine is ranked fifth in the country for access to mental health care, much lower than states with comparable rates. The Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey found that 25.9% of teens in grades 9-12 reported feeling depressed enough that they stopped doing some usual activities.
Arkansas’s depression rate 23.2%, the fourth-highest in the country. In 2017, 621 people died by suicide in Arkansas, making it the leading cause of violent death in the state that year. According to the Behavioral Health Barometer for Arkansas from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, about 46.5% of adults diagnosed with a serious mental illness in Arkansas receive mental health treatment or counseling, leaving over half of those diagnosed without treatment. As for high school students, 40% reported feeling sad or hopeless almost every day for two or more weeks in a row (depression symptoms), compared the to 31% national average.
Kentucky’s depression rate of 22.84% is the fifth-highest in the United States. Western Kentucky is a particularly dark spot for mental health, as it has lower educational attainment rates, lower incomes, poverty, and lower employment rates. In Western Kentucky, the suicide rates are about double the national average. Kentucky is ranked 30th for mental health care access, which is even harder to access in the rural parts of the state.
States with the Lowest Depression Rates
Hawaii has the lowest depression rate in the U.S. of 11.76%. Hawaiians are generally in good health – low tobacco use rates, low obesity rates, and lots of exercise. Hawaii ranks 18th for access to mental health care. Between 2014 and 2018, Hawaii’s depression rate increased by 17.76%. While Hawaii has one of the lowest suicide rates in the country of 12.1 per 100,000 (41st in the country), its suicide rates for Native Hawaiians and young people are much higher.
2. New Jersey
New Jersey has the second-lowest depression rate in the United States of 12.98%. Additionally, the Garden State has one of the lowest suicide rates in the U.S. Between 2014 and 2018, New Jersey saw an 11.94% decrease in its depression rate, the largest decline of any state. What’s surprising about New Jersey’s low depression rate is that it ranks 32nd for access to mental health care.
California’s depression rate of 14.48% is the third-lowest in the country. The state also has one of the lowest suicide rates of 10.5 per 100,000. Despite having one of the lowest depression rates in the country, California’s mental health care access rank is 26th, in the middle of the pack. Like New Jersey, this disparity between a low depression rate and access to mental health care services goes against the correlation of how access to mental health care impacts the increase or decrease of depression rates. About two-thirds of adults with a mental illness and two-thirds of adolescents with major depression do not receive treatment in California.
4. New York
New York has the fourth-highest depression rate in the United States of 14.88%, just above California. Between 2014 and 2018, New York’s depression rate decreased by 5.03%. Additionally, New York’s suicide rate is 8.1 per 100,000, the lowest in the nation. Depression tends to be more common in New York City due to a high-stress lifestyle, expensive cost of living, and a lack of sleep – as New York City is known as the “city that never sleeps.”
Texas has the fifth-lowest rate of depression of 15.28%. Texas also reportedly has the lowest depression rate among millennials in the country. Despite such impressive rates, Texas ranks last for access to mental health care. Additionally, suicide rates Texas are three times higher for white Texans than they are for black and Hispanic Texans and much higher for males than for females.
Depression is one of the most treatable mental illnesses. Every state has hotlines and resources available to those who are seeking help for depression. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) hotline number is 1-800-663-4357. The SAMHSA hotline is available 24/7, 365 days a year and is available in both English and Spanish.