Major depression is a serious mental health condition, and it’s on the rise among Americans of all ages. In a study done as part of the Health of America Report by insurance carrier Blue Cross/Blue Shield, medical claims for from 2013 to 2016 show a sharp increase of patients seeking treatment for depression.
The study results, which came from the BC/BS database, showed the incidence of depression was 4.4% among members. In the period studied, 2013 to 2016, diagnosis rates were up by 33% overall. The news was even worse among adolescents and millennials, showing a 63% increase in teens and a 47% increase in young adults in their 20s.
Location and gender matter as well with the highest rate of major depression seen in Rhode Island, with a 6.4% to the lowest rate being in Hawaii at 2.1%. Women patients are diagnosed at twice the rate of men.
While depression is a mental illness, it impacts general health as well. Chronic conditions are more common in depressed patients since the study results show that 85% of patients with major depression also have one or more other chronic health conditions like high blood pressure or obesity. 30% of patients who are depressed have four or more other health conditions, and most of these are tied to the depression diagnosis in some way. Naturally, health care spending is more for patients with depression, since they use more services.
Trent Haywood, senior vice president and chief medical officer for BCBS explained, “Major depression diagnoses are growing quickly, especially for adolescents and millennials. The high rates for adolescents and millennials could have a substantial health impact for decades to come. Further education and research are needed to identify methods for both physicians and patients to effectively treat major depression and begin a path to recovery and better overall health.” For the first time, the issue of social media was considered concerning health, and Dr. Haywood added, In preliminary literature, high users of social media have been linked with higher rates of social isolation than low users. It is important to further explore this relationship.”
The results were made possible by the enormous amount of data that the insurance company possesses. The study looked at over 200 conditions that impact health, pulling the information from more than 41 million claims by insured members. While the news is good that more people are seeking treatment and more health care providers are recognizing depression and getting their patients treated, the increase in major depression, which is way more than just general sadness or feeling down, is troubling.
The study is the twentieth publication from the Blue Cross Blue Shield: The Health of America Report® series. Other issues covered have included vaccination rates, allergies, antibiotic use, outpatient care and diabetes. The video below contains more information on the series and what the latest report says about the future of mental health care, take a look.