Don't Let Depression Keep You Down — Treatment Can Help

Depression rate in the US was high, and only a third of patients were seeking treatment

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) If you’re depressed, you have company. And you can take steps to feel better.

A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that women, people living in poverty and middle-aged people were the most likely groups of Americans to be severely depressed. Most severely depressed people reported having trouble at work, at home and with social activities. Despite their symptoms, however, few had seen a mental health professional in the past year.

But patients who are depressed can take several steps to improve their mental health, the authors of this report said.

“Studies have shown that the most effective treatment for depression, especially for severe depression, is a combination of medication and therapy," the authors of this report wrote. "Although medication can be prescribed by a primary care physician, therapy is generally provided by a mental health professional.”

Antidepressants are medications commonly used to treat depression. Some common antidepressants include Zoloft (sertraline) and Prozac (fluoxetine).

The CDC and the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) periodically collect and report information on depression from an ongoing study called the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, or NHANES. The latest survey included data from 2009 to 2012.

The current report was written by Laura A. Pratt, PhD, of the CDC’s NCHS Office of Analysis and Epidemiology, and Debra J. Brody, MPH, of the NCHS Division of Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys.

The 2009 to 2012 survey found that 7.6 percent of Americans aged 12 and older reported moderate to severe depression symptoms. Three percent reported severe depression. However, almost 78 percent had no symptoms of depression.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), depression can have many causes — from hormone changes to stressful life events — but patients can take many steps to combat their depression. Among those steps are seeing a doctor, speaking to a therapist and exercising.

"If you have depression, you may feel exhausted, helpless, and hopeless," according to the NIMH website. "It may be extremely difficult to take any action to help yourself. But as you begin to recognize your depression and begin treatment, you will start to feel better."

Women in all age groups were more likely to report depression than men. Brody and Dr. Pratt found that women aged 40 to 59 reported the highest rate of depression — at 12.3 percent.

People between the ages of 40 and 59 were the age group most likely to be depressed, with 9.8 percent of the survey population reporting symptoms. Adults aged 60 and older, however, had a depression rate of 5.4 percent.

People who lived below the poverty level were almost 2.5 times more likely to report depression than those at or above the poverty level, Brody and Dr. Pratt found. Poverty guidelines vary according to the size of the family. They range from an income of $11,670 a year for individuals to $40,090 for a family of eight.

Symptoms interfered with work, home and social activities for almost 43 percent of people who reported severe depressive symptoms. Only 35 percent of those who had severe symptoms had had any contact with a mental health professional in the past year.

Symptoms of depression included feeling sad or irritable. Another symptom was a loss of interest in usual activities and an inability to concentrate. Physical symptoms included fatigue and changes in sleep, appetite or activity levels.

This study was published Dec. 3 on the CDC website.

Brody and Dr. Pratt disclosed no outside funding or conflicts of interest.


Review Date: 
December 4, 2014
Last Updated:
April 1, 2015